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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Capital Acquisition:
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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