The Power of Love team would like to thank you for supporting our micro loans program in Zambia. As a result of your generosity we were able to provide 50 new loans and business training to women entrepreneurs last April in the community of Matero in Lusaka, Zambia. At this time we have 272 women running successful to moderately successful businesses which benefit approximately 1900 people. With earnings from their businesses, almost all women are able to provide 2-3 meals for their families, and a majority have been able to pay for school expenses. In addition, the women have developed significant knowledge regarding the importance of keeping children in school, HIV prevention and care, and acquired business skills and experience. We are confident that these learnings will be sustained and put the women closer to self-reliance. Moreover, our women entrepreneurs have become role models/mentors in the community. In fact one of our graduates, has become a role model for women around the world as her story was published at the UN Women’s website last July.
Who are the loan beneficiaries? Women and children are the direct beneficiaries as they have been disproportionately impacted by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa. Our loan recipients are all women and range in age from 33 to 65 years old. Of these, about two-thirds are single or widowed. On average each woman cares for a total of 7 or more people, five of which are children.
What are the goals of this program? The goal of this program is to empower women by teaching them a marketable skill so they can take better care of their families. Our vision is to enable women to become self-reliant by providing them with tools that enable them to take care of their sick family members, prevent the spread of HIV, and provide for their families.
How do we increase the probability of success for our entrepreneurs? In order to help the women run successful businesses, the program provide buiness monitoring and advice via weekly meetings, business mentoring sessions, refresher trainings and field visits.
Weekly meetings: The women meet with their loan officer every week to make repayments. In addition to making repayments, they discuss business related issues and other issues important to them such as HIV prevention and care, cancer screening, the importance of keeping children in school, adolescent children issues, hygiene etc.
Business mentoring: The program also encourages those who have graduated to mentor those currently in the program. In a typical business mentoring session, women graduates who are running successful businesses are invited to speak to current loan recipients. The business mentor motivates and inspires loan recipients to continue to work hard and to address challenges.
Field visits and on-site conversations by loan officers provide an opportunity to review strengths and weaknesses of the business, check if techniques demonstrated during training are followed, and offer business consulting. For example, the loan officer may provide advice and guidance on store display, store design, accounting, underscore the importance of customer service, as well as the regular use of work sheets.
Refresher trainings: In addition to intensive training prior to receiving loans, recipients must attend a refresher training at the end of the first loan cycle. The goal of the refresher training, moderated by a professional, is to motivate women to continue to work hard and act as a support group. These trainings provide an opportunity to build partnerships with other women, and to discuss and learn from successes/challenges, and share their learnings and plans for the future.
At this time we have 272 direct beneficiaries and more than 1900 indirect beneficiaries as each women cares for seven people on average. An additional 1000 people are indirect beneficiaries as women in our program share their learning with others in the community.
In summary over the last 12 months our women entrepreneurs have made significant progress as:
(i) almost all women have purchased household items and toys for their children,
(ii) most women have been able to pay for school expenses (about 96 children were able to go back/start school as a result of earnings from businesses),
(iii) they are learning to save a small amount each week,
(iv) 60% women now have bank accounts as compared to less than 10% before,
(v) 164 businesses out of 275 have expanded, and
(vi) overall capital growth has been 12%.
But the most important result is that our loan recipients have developed significant knowledge regarding the importance of keeping children
But the most important result is that our loan recipients have developed significant knowledge regarding the importance of keeping children in school, HIV prevention and care, and have acquired business skills and experience.
The impact of this program goes beyond the economic benefits of increasing income and earnings in the short term. The women now have the necessary capital and skills to continue to run and grow their businesses. Most have gained confidence, share their experiences and have become role models and mentors in their community. The long term impact of this program is to teach women how to build and run a successful business, acquire the habit of planning and saving, and understand the importance of keeping children in school.
Next Steps and Improved Strategy
1. A larger loan size is better for business: Our plan is to provide bigger loans going forward.
2. We have learnt that counselling can increase the probability of business success for women going through personal problems. Going forward we plan to provide extra support and counseling to women who can benfit.
3. Qualifying women prior to enrollment: To reduce defaults in loan repayments, we need to gather more information before the women are enrolled. For example, we should ensure that the women are not enrolled in any other loan program as this makes it difficult for them to make repayments to multiple agencies.
4. We will be tracking our graduates so that we can learn what makes a business more successful and leads to self-reliance.
Thanks for empowering women and children.