Microfinance For Women Summary
As a result of the generosity of donors, we were able to provide business training and new loans to 125 women "entrepreneurs" over the last two years and we continue to provide business support and mentorship to an additional 65 women in our loans program.
Micro loans helps poor women entrepreneurs take better care of their families, pay for school expenses and fees, and take the first steps towards self-reliance. (Read more here)
Power of Love's Microfinace Program for Women
In order to help a sick child recover completely it is important to supplement the medicines with food and nutrition. Unfortunately, the AIDS epidemic has destroyed the fabric of the African community and most of the households are headed by grandmothers caring for 5 or more orphans.These grandmothers do not have a permanent source of income and struggle against odds to provide regular food or support to the family.
We realized early in our work that if we were to succeed in making a real difference in the lives of all the HIV+ children we had to make sure the grandmothers had a regular source of income.
Microfinance is a program by which poor people are given small loans without collateral. This has been implemented successfully in many countries. Through microfinance poor women get loans to start a business and over time as the business grows, they repay their loans. Worldwide the repayment rates for micro credit vastly exceed that of traditional banking.
Power of Love’s (POL) micro loans program (launched in 2005) helps women impacted by HIV/AIDS take the first steps towards self-reliance by learning basic business practices, running a small business, and being able to take better care of their families. The goal of this program is to empower women, and our vision is to strengthen communities impacted by HIV/AIDS and malaria in an environment where unemployment rates are 67% or higher.
What makes our program unique? In developing the program, we had to take into account the special circumstances of the loan recipients - many could die during the loan process, all of them spent a large part of their day in providing care to one or more sick children, and the fact that they were themselves aging grandmothers. Our loans program is one of the few loans programs that works with women infected or impacted by HIV/AIDS. It is specially designed for women who are the primary caregivers for the HIV-infected adults and children in their community. Second, our loans program is completely integrated with our pediatric HIV/AIDS care program and malaria prevention programs, so we are able to support a family in multiple ways. For stories of a few women running successful businesses please click here.
Unlike traditional microfinance programs, we decided to focus not just on successful loan repayment but on proof positive that the loan recipients’ lives were being improved.
How Does the Program Work?
Our program empowers women by providing business training, start-up funds for a small business, providing business monitoring via field visits, and business advice to help them run a successful business. These women, who care for HIV/AIDS patients and orphaned children, are critical to maintaining family structures in the community. However, they are themselves highly vulnerable to poverty and sickness. With the ability to generate income, they can support and empower themselves, while providing care that is essential in the community response to HIV/AIDS.
Impact of the Program
To date, POL has provided more than 475 loans to women caregivers of HIV positive children. Repayment rates are over 90%.
As a result of the businesses started with loan money:
The diet of several families has improved significantly with many women reporting that they can now afford 2-3 meals a day as opposed to a single meal before they started the business.
In addition, the children are healthier so that they miss fewer days of school, and as a result of regular earnings these women can pay for school supplies (books, school bags, shoes, uniforms).
3. Improved Merchandise
In addition, as the women progress successfully through loan cycles there is a marked improvement in the assortment and display of their merchandise.
4. Role Models
More importantly, women who are on their third or fourth loan cycle have not only become role models for other women but also for other men in the community. Several men are helping their wives run the business.
The women are also saving a small amount each week as personal savings and have their own passbooks to record their savings.
6. Over 5000 children and adults directly impacted
Overall, we believe over 5000 children and adults have been directly impacted by the program through better nutrition, health, school attendance and increased life expectancy.
A Brief Report on the Achievements of Power of Love’s Micro Loans Program in Lusaka, Zambia
As a result of generous donations, some of the achievements of the micro loans program in the last 12 months are given below:
1. New Loans
New micro loans given out to 75 women (total of over 475 loans have been provided to date).
2. Field Visits Report Success
Field visits are made on a regular basis and most of the businesses run by the women are doing well. Most women who are on their 3rd loan cycle have better store displays and store layouts. This leads to increased traffic in the store
3. School and Expenses
As a result of these loans, the women are able to pay for school fees and expenses for their children.
4. Meeting Attendance Improved
Attendance in weekly micro finance meetings has improved. At these meetings the women discuss how to run and improve their businesses, care and health of the children in their homes, their own health and HIV status, the decision to go in for voluntary testing and the importance of keeping children in school.As a result the women have developed relationships of mutual support with each other and help each other when they can.
Most women have come forward for voluntary testing, encouraged others to do the same, and the women are able to discuss HIV/AIDS related issues with their husbands and children at home. We are proud of our women entrepreneurs as they have become role models to both men and women in the community and the men are coming forward to help with the business. We hope that this cultural change will be sustained and permanent.
5. Improved and Expanded Businesses
Women who are on their third (and final) loan have made significant improvements and expansions in their businesses. For example, several women have extended their houses, purchased plots, built shops, or expanded their businesses (drug stores, restaurants, different types of groceries, clothing).
Women have realized the importance of savings and have started saving accounts in banks of their choice. Typically, before they joined the program less than 5% of the women had savings bank accounts. After a few months in the program, 30-40% have a savings bank account and most women understand the importance of savings.
As a result of earnings from their businesses, the diet and nutrition of the families has improved, the children are healthier and back in school, and the loan recipients have become role models in their community for both men and other women.
Challenges Faced by the Micro Finance Program
1. Delayed Repayment
Some of the women are not able to make profits from their businesses due to higher prices of food, and for the products they purchase for sale. This has led to delays in making loan repayments.
2. Need Additional Finacing
In additions to funds for loan capital we are constantly in need of funds for business training, field visits by the loan officer, salary and expenses for the loan officer, refresher training for women, and weekly meetings that are an essential element to ensure the success of the micro loans program.
Micro loans program has increased the survival rates of the children in the Matero compound in Lusaka, Zambia through better nutrition, helped children stay in school, and significantly improved the quality of life of their families.
This program together with children’s care program is comprehensive as it takes care of physical (food, medicines, schooling), social (environment, culture, religious issues), and psychological (counselling, peer groups) needs of the women and children. In addition, education on adherence and monitoring has reduced the number of children who might have developed resistance to drugs at an early age, leading to an increase in their life span.
The Power of Love program has matured and our focus through 2013 continues to be provision of continuous quality care to the children and micro loans to their caregivers so that they can take care of the whole family. In the next few years we hope to extend the program to the entire community of Matero in Lusaka, Zambia.
Plans for 2013
Our goal for 2013 is to provide business training and new loans to an additional 100 women entrepreneurs. At this time we are raising funds to reach our goal. Please donate generously and give a gift of hope and economic independence to women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS in Zambia.
To learn more click here