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
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.
Schooling: Most families understand the importance of keeping children in school and are able to pay for school expenses (books, uniforms, school bag).
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.
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.
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
Women will move from 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.
3. Expand and diversify into new line/lines of business.
4. Purchase a shop instead of selling from a rented space.
Personal/Marital problems: For example sickness/death in the family, or the woman herself being sick.
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.
- Increased competition at the selling point.
How We Counteract Challenges
- Refresher trainings help the women in running/expand their businesses well so they continue to stay on track with repayments.
- Advice/mentoring from peers whose businesses are doing well.
- Weekly meetings with the loan officer.
- 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.