Micro Loans For Women Impacted by HIV/AIDS, Zambia

 
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Dec 15, 2014

A BIG Thank you and Happy Holidays

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

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Oct 5, 2014

Impact of our Micro Loans Program in Zambia

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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Jul 16, 2014

A Brief Report on Business Training and Micro Loans Provided to New Women Entrepreneurs in Zambia

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.  

Links:

May 4, 2014

Happy Mother's Day from our Women Entrepreneurs

Happy Mother's Day! This Mother's day, give a gift of self-reliance to a mom in Zambia. Power of Love's micro loans program provides business training, loans and business monitoring and advice to poor women entrepreneurs in Zambia.  Over the last seven years our women entrepreneurs have built successful businesses even though each and every one of them is battling difficult circumstances to provide for their families and keep their children healthy, and in school. It is heartwarming to see these women transform themselves from a situation of poverty and helplessness to taking charge of their lives and planning and saving for a brighter future. At this time we have about 240 women running moderately successful businesses. Since each women cares for 7-8 people on average, our loans program impacts about 1900 people directly and an additional 2000 indirectly as they encourage others to start a business and take charge of their lives. This leads to substantive ripple effects in the community beyond the program participants themselves.  

Given below are stories of three women entrepreneurs who received business training and loans in 2013; their businesses are doing well and they have taken the first steps towards self-reliance.

Jane (not her real name): is a widow taking care of eight children (five her own and three children from her late brother). The three children had never been to school as they lost their mom to HIV/AIDS in 2012 and their dad a year later. Jane took in the orphaned children as she was their closest relative, but she had no means to support her family. In 2013, she received business training and a small loan to start a business selling grocery items like chips and detergent. With earnings from her business she has been able to pay for school expenses for all eight children. Jane understand the importance of keeping children in school and is planning to expand her business so that she can continue to provide for the children and keep them in school.

Mary (not her real name) takes care of five children of her own and two nephews orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. Her husband was not in favor of caring for her nephews but she took them in to her home as she is their closest relative. Her nephews had missed school for more than a year due to the loss of their parents. Mary started a business with the loan capital received and her restaurant business is doing well. With earnings from her business, she saved enough to pay for school expenses and her nephews went back to school in January 2014. She continues to work hard so that she can expand her business, increase earnings and savings so as to take better care for her family.  

Gloria (name changed) is married with six children. It was difficult for her to care for her family as her husband does not have a full time job. Gloria wanted to help support the family, but did not have funds to start a business. She received business training and a loan to start a business selling charcoal. Gloria buys charcoal in bulk, repackages the charcoal, and sells the smaller packages as fuel. Since her business did well she was able to purchase building supplies to extend her home. Her plan is to work hard and expand her business so that she can add another room to her home for her own/renting purposes.   

Thanks for your support.

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Feb 23, 2014

A Report on the Acheivements of our Micro Loans Program in Zambia

Executive Summary

Power of Love’s micro loans program now has 240 women enrolled and a majority of them are running successful businesses. The 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, charcoal, baby blankets, books, restaurant, and a salon etc. Most women (about 50%) have started tiny grocery stores located close to their homes. About 20% of the women sell used clothes and shoes. These ladies travel by bus to the City Market in Lusaka, purchase the used clothing and shoes and resell these at a higher price in their community marketplace. Many of the 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. For example, one of the ladies, Edith Makoni owned a hair dryer machine, so she opened a hair salon by renting space in the marketplace and purchasing supplies and materials like combs and cosmetics, needed to run her business. Edith is now providing a service to the women closer to their homes and at reasonable prices.

Business training and loans provided to women in our program goes a long way in helping them provide for their families and take the first steps towards self-reliance. At this time, 70% of the women are single or widowed and 50% are dependent on their husband or relatives for household expenses. On average each women cares for 7 or more people at home - our goal is to help these women learn how to run a business so they can pay for school expenses and keep their children in school.

We track businesses run by the women to study how they evolve as the women progress from their first loan to their second and third loan cycles. Our hope is that as the women move to through their loan cycles, they are able to increase the number and variety of items, add higher value items, increase the store size or move to a better location, and/or have a better store design and display.

Short Term Impact of the Loans Provided

  1. The diet and nutrition of all families in our program has improved and they have gone from eating one meal to 2-3 meals per day. Since the average household size is about 7-8 people, our loans program impacts 1600-1700 people directly and an additional 1000 people indirectly as the women in our program educate others on taking better care of their HIV positive members in the family, keep their children in school, and encourage them to go in for testing for HIV and to take charge of their own lives.

  2. Schooling: Most families understand the importance of keeping children in school and are able to pay for school expenses (books, uniforms, school bag).

  3. Earnings from businesses enable women to purchase household goods, building materials, pay for expansion of their homes or purchase a plot of land for purposesd of building.

  4. Savings: Most women understand the importance of saving and more than 50% have started savings in bank accounts. The amount saved per woman is small but these savings help build capital for when they are weaned off the program/emergencies/for school expenses, and for investment in big assets like houses.

  5. Business Expansion: About two-thirds of the women are able to expand their business by the second loan cycle. More importantly, the women understand the importance of expanding tehir businesses to increase earnings. 

 Medium/Long Term Impact of the Loans Program

  1. Women will move from selling out of their homes to a rented shop in the community marketplace which has higher foot traffic.

  2. Expand their business with the same type of goods.

      3.   Expand and diversify into new line/lines of business.

      4.   Purchase a shop instead of selling from a rented space.

 Challenges Faced

  1. Personal/Marital problems: For example sickness/death in the family, or the woman herself being sick.

  2. Need more capital to expand business as a significant portion of their earnings goes towards meeting the needs of the family so they are not able to save enough to purchase raw materials/inventory items for their business.

  3. Increased competition at the selling point.

How We Counteract Challenges

  1. Refresher trainings help the women in running/expand their businesses well so they continue to stay on track with repayments.
  2. Advice/mentoring from peers whose businesses are doing well.
  3. Weekly meetings with the loan officer.
  4. Counseling for women whose businesses are impacted due to marital/personal problems.

Stories of a few women (names changed) who have inspired us with their inventiveness and “can do” attitude

Alice is a 45 year old widow. Her husband died two years ago and left her with six children and one grandson. Her income as a maid was not enough to support herself and her family. In September 2013, she received business training and a loan that enabled her to start a small restaurant at the Tuesday community market. At present, her restaurant draws a regular clientele and she has been able to move out of her sister’s place where she was living since the death of her husband. She is now renting a two-room apartment where she lives there with her children and grandchild. Alice is appreciative of our business training and loans program and the continued business guidance she is receiving to ensure her business does well.

Diane is an old lady taking care of 12 grandchildren and 4 children of her own. She was going through a difficult time as she has had to care for her children and grandchildren. Two of her sons and three grandchildren are HIV positive. Prior to September 2013, she was washing clothes to earn money, but her income was not enough to provide food for everyone in her family. With the help of business training and a loan, Diane started a business selling used clothing. Since she started her business, she has stopped washing clothes for others and is focusing on her business. Diane says that she is happy that her family is now able to have at least two meals a day. She would like to thank supporters of our loans program as this program has made a huge difference in her life.

Mary has been married for seven years with four children of her own and one dependent. Her husband stopped working two years back and since then she found it hard to make ends meet. All seven people in her household were living in a one-room rented apartment and her son had to drop out of high school due to lack of funds for school fees. Mary’s husband learnt to drive a car from his friends but he did not have funds to pay for a driving license. Mary received a loan and business training from our micro loans program and worked hard running her business. Earnings from her business enabled her to save enough to pay for her husband’s driving license. At this time, Mary's husband works as a mini bus driver, her eldest child will be able to go back to high school and the family can pay school expenses for the other children. In addition, Mary has been able to move to a two-room rented apartment and is happy with the way things have worked out for her. Mary and her husband expressed their heartfelt thanks for supporting them via business training and a loan when they were going through a difficult time.

 Another lady, Julie was also able to pay for a driver’s license for her husband and her family is doing well.

 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. After purchase they divided the big plot into five pieces and now each one of them is an owner of a small piece of land. Their goal and dream is to build a small house for themselves in the near future.

To Sum: Power of Love’s (POL) micro loans program empowers women impacted by HIV/AIDS by providing them with business training, a small loan, and business advice and monitoring over the course of the loan period. Our loans program has enabled poor women to engage in self-employment projects so that they can meet basic needs and protect against unexpected financial expenses. For most women there is a dramatic improvement in their standard of living and they graduate out of poverty. For all involved there is perceived improvement in gender equality, improved economic welfare, and a sense of well-being and self-empowerment. We are proud to report that all of the outcomes of this project continue to be significant, sustainable and permanent. 

Thanks for all you do - we could not have done this without your support and encouragement.

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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