Micro Loans For Women Impacted by HIV/AIDS, Zambia

 
$21,272
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Micro Loans Empower Women

Micro loans programs provided to women to start small businesses have proven to be one of the most effective means of empowering women and teaching them self-reliance. By learning basic business practices, new women entrepreneurs are better equipped to run small businesses and are therefore able to take better care of their families. Power of Love’s micro loans program is located in the community of Matero, in Lusaka, Zambia. Matero is one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, with a population of approximately 85,000. This community is characterized by a high incidence of HIV and AIDS (prevalence rate of 14% among adults aged 15-49) and an unemployment rate upward of 60%.  As a result, most people are poor and live on less than $1 per day.  

Women in Matero regularly provide care for one or more sick family members. Loans and business training provided to women have enabled them to excel in this difficult environment by learning marketable skills and running a profitable small business, thereby supporting all dependents in the household.

Impact of Our Loans Program

Women who have graduated from our micro loans program have gained valuable experience and expertise in their line of business. They work hard to provide for their families and have gained self-confidence and become role models for others in the community. A majority of the women have started saving (either at home or via a bank account) and several women have found innovative ways to increase earnings from their businesses.

Most women in our loans program are able to take better care of their families in terms of nutrition and health, pay for school expenses, and understand the importance of keeping children in school. In addition, we are seeing a change in the attitude of the women - they are confident, have a plan for their future, and are on the path to self-reliance (both economic and social). More deatil on program impact is provided below.

Our Program is Unique

Loans provided to POL micro loan participants have immediate impact on the entire family as the program is completely integrated with Power of Love’s pediatric HIV care and malaria prevention programs. As such, the pediatric HIV care and malaria prevention programs provide micro loan recipients with the extra support they need (via food, medicines, packages of health care services and mosquito bed nets) while they learn how to run their businesses.  This significantly increases their chance of success in business.

Women and children have been disproportionately impacted by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa; hence, they are the main beneficiaries of POL’s comprehensive programs. The vision behind all of our programs is to strengthen communities impacted by HIV and AIDS by empowering women.

Profiles of Women Entrepreneurs

Micro loan recipients range in age from 33 to 65 years old. Of these women, 70% are single or widowed. On average each woman cares for a total of 6 or more people, of which 5 are usually children. Prior to receiving a micro loan, fewer than 5% of these women had bank accounts.

The vast majority of the women use loan funds to start new businesses and or expand existing businesses. Businesses started with these loans are diverse and range from selling bananas along the roadside to brick-and-mortar stores selling cell phone chargers and accessories. Most businesses sell groceries, used shoes, toys, clothing, dried fish, charcoal, popcorn, mealie meal (a Zambian staple) etc. Many women distribute fish to local restaurants, fry donut-like snacks for stores, or make their own floor wax.

Direct Impact of our Loans Program in 2014

  1. Diet and Nutrition: Almost all 225 women on our program are able to provide two or more meals per day for their families as compared to one meal per day before they joined our program. 
  2. Schooling: Most women have been able to support their children with school requirements such as school fees, books, uniforms, shoes, pen/pencils, and transport money to those who go to school by public transport. In 2014, as a result of this program, 22 children were enrolled at the University, 123 children went back to school as their caregivers were able to pay school fees and/or school expenses, and 52 children have started grade one this month as their parents have saved money for their school requirements. In addition, 156 children will be able to continue their education as their caregivers were able to pay for school expenses (uniforms, shoes, books, and stationary). 
  3. Household purchases: A majority of the women were able to purchase household items such as TV stands, pressure cooker, Television, radios, DVD Machines, dinner set, cooking pot etc. These purchases would not have been possible without earnings from their businesses.
  4. Savings: About 175 women have been saving via bank accounts and an additional 40 women are saving at home. We are proud of these women who are saving a certain amount each week as this is a habit that is new to them. The amount saved each week is small, but it helps the women continue to run their business once they are weaned off the loan program, and take care of unexpected expenses.
  5. Capital Acquisition:
    • A group of 16 women pooled their savings to rent a piece of land for growing cotton and beans. These ladies got the idea from their mentors who themselves had purchased a piece of land for farming purposes and are doing well.
    • An additional 16 women have bought a piece of land each for purposes of constructing a house (for rent or as a home for themselves) as and when they have funds. Two of the ladies have laid the foundation for construction.
  6.  Business Expansion: Out of the total group of 225 women, 187 women have expanded their businesses and increased their capital by 50-60%. These dynamic ladies have invested funds in projects and products that will help sustain their businesses even after they are weaned off the loans program after three loan cycles. Moreover, they will continue to mentor new loan beneficiaries and have become role models for others in the community.
  7.  Prevention of HIV: As a result of discussions during weekly meetings 117 women have come forward for voluntary testing for HIV. This is encouraging as testing is the first step toward prevention of HIV.

Expected Impact in the Next 12-24 Months

In the next few months we expect more women to:

  • move out of selling out of their homes to a rented shop in the community marketplace which has higher foot traffic,
  • expand their business with the same type of goods,
  • expand and diversify into new line/lines of business,
  • purchase a shop instead of selling from a rented space.

The impact of our program goes beyond the economic benefits of increasing income and earnings in the short term. The long term impact of this program is to teach women how to build and run a successful business, save via bank accounts, and have the necessary capital to take charge of their lives and first steps toward self-reliance.

Next Steps

Our focus for 2015 and beyond is to continue to empower women by teaching them basic business practices and helping them run a profitable business so that they can become self-reliant. In addition, we are planning on providing 50 new loans in the spring of 2015.

Conclusion

Most women in our loans program are able to take better care of their families in terms of nutrition and health, pay for school expenses, and understand the importance of keeping children in school. In addition, we are seeing a change in the attitude of the women - they are confident, have a plan for their future, and are on the path to self-reliance (both economic and social).

Micro loans successfully enable women to engage in self-employment projects and set themselves on the road to self-reliance. These loans help a poor household meet basic needs and protect against unexpected expenses. For most women, there is a dramatic improvement in their standard of living and many are able to finally break the cycle of poverty. Finally, there is an improvement in gender inequality, economic welfare, and self-empowerment. We are confident that the outcomes of this program will be sustainable and permanent.  

Thanks for your support.

Loan recipient at her used shoes store
Loan recipient at her used shoes store

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Thanks for supporting Power of Love’s micro loans program that empowers women by providing them with business training and small loans. Once the women complete their training and receive a loan, they start a business and work hard to make it grow. Our loan officers advice the women and monitor the businesses via weekly loan meetings, field visits, refresher training and business mentoring sessions. Continuous monitoring of businesses has helped the women run their businesses well and keep on track with repayments. 

Our Wish List and Request for Donations: At this time, we are raising funds to provide 50 new loans in the spring of 2015. Please donate generously so that women like Julie and Maureen (read their stories below) can break the cycle of poverty, learn a marketable skill, and keep their children in school. A single donation from you helps several women as loan capital funds go into a revolving fund and once a loan is repaid it becomes available for provision to a new woman entrepreneur.    

Power of Love’s micro loans program is located in the community of Matero - one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka with a population of approximately 80,000-85,000 people. This community is characterized by a high incidence of HIV/AIDS (prevalence rate of 14% among adults aged 15-49), and unemployment rates upwards of 60%. As a result most people are poor and live on less than $1 per day. Given this difficult environment, women benefit from learning a marketable skill and running a profitable small business. Most women beneficiaries are able to break out of the cycle of poverty and a lack of marketable skills so that they are able to improve the diet of their families and pay for school expenses for their children.

We would like you to meet Julie and Maureen, who received business training and a small loan to start a business. At this time, both women are running successful businesses and are making repayments on their second loan having successfully paid off their first loan. All women in our program receive three loans. By the end of the third loan, most businesses are doing well and the women have built up a small capital base so that they are on the path to self-reliance. Julie and Maureen, like most of the 230 women in our loans program are working hard every day to expand their businesses to provide for their families, and keep their children in school.

Julie (not her real name) is a widow who cares for her old parents and three grandchildren. With her first loan she started a business selling vegetables. Her business did well and she was able to pay for food and rent for her family. Once Julie had repaid her first loan, she received a second loan with which she expanded her business by adding used clothing to her vegetable shop.

At this time, Julie has been able to pay for school expenses for her three grandchildren, and is able to pay for medical expenses for her parents. She is happy that she got an opportunity to learn how to run a business, meet other women like her so she can learn from them, and received funds to start a business. She wants to continue to work hard to expand her business so that she can continue to put a smile on the faces of her old parents and orphaned grandchildren.    

Maureen (not her real name) lost her husband to AIDS and is the sole provider for her four children. Before Maureen joined Power of Love’s loans program, she was having a difficult time as she was unable to pay for rent and school expenses for her children. Once Maureen joined our loans program, she received business training and a loan to start a fruit stand. Her fruit stand did well and she was able to pay for rent, school expenses and repay her off the first loan. With a second loan, she purchased a used popcorn machine. With earnings from her fruit and popcorn stand she is able to pay rent, school expenses, and save a small amount each week.

Maureen is very happy taking care of her family with earnings from her business as this has helped her improve her quality of life. She is thankful for this program as it had taught her how to be self-reliant.    

Thanks for teaching economic independence and self-reliance to new women entrepreneurs in Zambia.

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The team at Power of Love would like to wish you a very happy holiday season and express our gratitude for your support throughout the year. Your donation has given the gift of self-reliance to new women entrepreneurs in Zambia. Please take a moment and treat yourself to this short video shot during our last field visit. We hope that you enjoy the video as much as we do.

Power of Love's micro loans program continues to improve the lives of several hundred women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS and malaria in Zambia. We could not have achieved our goals this year without each of you. 

Have a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, and laughter!

                    THANK YOU

Links:

Thanks for supporting Power of Love’s micro loans program that empowers women by providing them with business training and loans. Once the women complete their training and receive a loan, they start a business and work hard to make it grow. Our loan officers advise the women and monitor the businesses via weekly loan meetings, field visits, refresher training and business mentoring sessions. Continuous monitoring of businesses has helped the women run their businesses well and keep on track with repayments. 

Our loans program is located in the community of Matero - one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka with a population of approximately 80,000-85,000 people. This community is characterized by a high incidence of HIV/AIDS (prevalence rate of 14% among adults aged 15-49), and unemployment rates upwards of 60%. As a result most people are poor and live on less than $1 per day. Given this difficult environment, women benefit from learning a marketable skill and running a profitable small business.  

Profile of our Women Entrepreneurs

The age range of the women is from 33 to 65 years old, and 70% are single or widowed. On average each women cares for a total of 6 or more people, out of which 5 are children. A majority of the women start new businesses; the rest expand existing businesses. Businesses chosen by the women are quite diverse and range from groceries (mealie meal - a Zambian staple, cooking oil, rice, sugar, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and beans), to dressed chicken, dried fish, toys, restaurants, charcoal, baby blankets, books, and a salon etc. The majority of the women start tiny grocery stores located close to their homes. A few women sell used clothes and shoes. Many ladies travel by bus to the City Market in Lusaka, purchase used clothing, toys, and shoes and resell these at a better price in their community. Many businesses such as charcoal, rice, beans and sugar involve the women buying in bulk, repackaging the item in smaller quantities and reselling. All of these businesses add value for the community members as they are located within walking distance from their homes and the community is able to purchase smaller and more affordable quantities.

What is Unique about Our Program?

In addition to loans and business training, many women receive support from our pediatric HIV/AIDS care and malaria prevention programs. Support from these two programs (in the form of food, medicines, a package of health care services, and malaria bed nets) helps the women take care of their HIV+ children, and keep them healthy. This extra support enables women to devote more time to their business increasing its chances of success. 

Impact of our Loans Program

Earnings from businesses enable most women to improve their diet and nutrition, send/keep their children in school, purchase household items like pots, pans, carpets, toys, start saving via bank accounts or at home, expand their business, and increase their original capital.

As the women gain valuable experience and expertise in their line of business they become more confident, work hard to provide for their families, and become role models for others (both men and women) in the community. A few dynamic women pool their resources and work together so as to be able to buy and sell larger quantities, and support each other after they are weaned off our program. For example, a group of five women who live in the same area decided to pool their loan capital and work together. They designated two women to travel to Malawi and purchase bales of used clothing at much lower prices than in Lusaka, Zambia. The women saved on transport expenses by sending only two ladies. They started selling used clothing and since their business was doing well, they wanted to move out from their rented apartments. Again they decided to pool their savings and purchased a big plot of land. This cost them less than if they had bought individual pieces of land. Now each one of them is an owner of a small piece of land and their dream is to build a small house in the near future.  

Overall, the women are happy that they can take better care of their families, keep/send their children to school, are confident about their future and plan to continue working hard to expand their business and earnings potential. By the end of the third and final loan cycle most businesses are doing well, and the women on the path to self-reliance (both economic and social).

Thanks for caring.

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Introduction

In June 2014, 22 new women were identified to be provided with business training and loans to start small businesses. The loan disbursement activities, were held on June 12, 2014. The women who received loans were happy and said that they were looking forward to starting a business with the loan capital and would work hard to make their businesses successful.  For most women this was their first business venture.  

Profile of the New Beneficiaries

The women in this group range in ages from 33 to 65 years of age. Most women are taking care of several family members with a typical household size of eight, out of which five are children.  They have chosen to start a diverse set of businesses ranging from groceries (fruits, dry fish, tea, soft drinks, vegetables, Beans, Kapenta, fresh fish, mealie meal- a Zambian staple), restaurant, hair salon, used clothing, shoes, and clothing items.

Business Training

The women completed a four day business training course prior to receiving the loan capital. In addition, the women formed groups (4-5 women in each group) to support each other in running their businesses. A list of the topics covered during business training is as follows:

  • Market investigation: The trainees are asked to brainstorm and come up with ideas on the kind of business they would like to start/expand, who their customers will be, location of their business, and the process of selling their goods or services.
  • Buying: Issues such as quality, pricing, sourcing of materials, quantity and frequency of purchases of raw materials/inventory are discussed.
  • Costing and pricing: In addition to cost of materials, competition, and pricing of final product, trainees are asked to think about filling a need in the marketplace and developing unique products by use their individual talents and competencies.
  • Selling: The concept of selling above cost and profit is introduced. In addition, ideas on how to attract and retain customers are discussed.
  • MoneyManagement: In this module, we discuss the importance of bookkeeping and accounting. We encourage the women to keep a Money Management sheet/book for their business finances. We guide them on how to separate funds for capital, loan repayment, hire purchase expenses (if any), savings, and family expenses. This helps them estimate if their capita is growing/decreasing/at the same level as the loan capital amount.    
  • Creating a simple business plan: By the end of the fourth day of training the women are able to provide information on location of their business, where they will purchase raw materials/inventory, how they are going to set up their store, proposed mark-up, list of equipment (if needed), estimated fixed and variable costs, funds required to start/expand business, if funds need to be borrowed/or from own funds, profile of customers, and how to attract/retain customers, and their goals for the next 1-2 years. In addition, if they think they are ready to start a business and begin selling, they are qualified for the loan and graduated from business training.  

Disbursement of loans

The women were provided with a loan capital in the amount of $120-140 and are expected to complete loan repayments in 25 weekly instalments. They meet with the loan officer every week to make repayments, ask questions, learn from their peers about running a business, and discuss issues important to them (like taking care of an HIV+ child,  importance of keeping children in school, HIV prevention, importance of getting tested for HIV etc.). At the end of every two months they attend a business mentoring session in which they have the opportunity to meet a business person like themselves (who is running a successful business), and this person is available to answer questions. 

During the course of the loan, our loan officers visit the businesses on a regular basis to monitor and advice the women on how to improve sales, store layout, provide better customer service, keep records of costs, accounting help, and pricing.  

Once the women have finished repaying the first loan they will be participate in refresher training and will be provided with a second loan in the same amount.  At the end of the third loan cycle, the women are weaned off the program as they are expected to have accumulated enough capital to run their business on their own.

Conclusion

The new women who received loans are happy as they hope to take better care of their families, and keep/send their children to school. They are confident about their business and plan to continue working hard to expand their business and earnings potential over the next few months.  

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Organization

Project Leader

Alka Subramanian

Founder/Director
San Diego, CA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Micro Loans For Women Impacted by HIV/AIDS, Zambia