POL Posts: Blogs, Reports & Updates
January 20, 2022

Achievements of First Time Entrepreneurs Enrolled in Our Women’s Empowerment Program in Zambia

Executive Summary

The Power of Love team is grateful for your continued support and dedication to empower vulnerable women, educate children, and alleviate poverty. Your continued support has created a community of self-reliant women entrepreneurs.

Impact of COVID, Rationale and Goals for this program

About Zambia: Zambia is a democratic country, rich in mineral resources and a young population (53% of its population is under the age of 18 with a median age of 17 years). The country has made significant progress in areas of health care and education. However, 55% of its population lives below the national poverty line, 70 percent of the urban population lives in slums, and most of it estimated one million orphans live with grandmothers/extended family who have few marketable skills, poor information regarding disease prevention, and no source of income. These families need support, education, and counseling.

Rationale for Micro Loans: The ongoing pandemic has made life more difficult for vulnerable communities globally and women and children are impacted disproportionately. A workable solution is to provide income generating skills and loans/financing to these families. Research has shown that a small boost in micro loans to developing countries can lift more than 10.5 million people out of extreme poverty. Provision of microcredit expands the financial choices available to vulnerable women and is a cost-effective solution to generate an income and keep children in school.

Impact of COVID: According to a World Bank analysis, more countries are facing growing levels of acute food insecurity, which has been aggravated by the ongoing COVID pandemic and this is expected to continue through 2022. Also, an erosion of social cohesion due to COVID is the fastest growing threat to our planet. Third, the world is not on track to achieve goal 2 (or zero hunger) of UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030. Consequently, there is an immediate need to prioritize food security, health, and income stability.

Our response: For the last 18 months our goal has been to keep families in our programs educated on COVID prevention and health, ensure that the women have a stable income, and that children continue in school. Second, we are expanding our micro loans program (81 new loans were added this year to bring the total to 551 women enrolled). Third our plan to train women to start backyard gardens to further improve their diet and nutrition.

Our vison is to empower women, keep children in school, and create sustainable communities. Our mission is to increase the skill levels of women and teach them economic self-reliance. Accordingly, the goals of our micro loans program are (i) equip women with the tools they need to run a successful business, (ii) create conditions for social empowerment, and (iii) enable women to gather enough capital and savings so they can continue to run a profitable business even after graduating from the program.

Program Activities and Impact

Power of Love’s women’s empowerment program continues to benefit more than 1,400 (currently enrolled and graduates) women and their families (about 9,800 adults and children) in Zambia. Program activities include the provision of three loans, business training, and ongoing business mentoring and monitoring to vulnerable women impacted by HIV. All training is participative, hands on, and in the local language as most women have never been to school. This year:  

  • 889 women received business training,
  • 81 new loans were added,
  • 470 women received refresher training, and
  • 470 women received business mentorship.

Earnings from businesses started after completion of training, help pay for food, rent, medicines, and school. As a result, there is a demonstrable improvement in the health of families, more children attend school (1,650 in 2021 alone), the women are financially literate, and there is an improvement in gender equality. Currently, there are more than 1,500 businesses (by current enrollees and women who have graduated) running in the community benefitting more than 10,000 adults and children.

All women and their families receive insecticide treated nets to keep them safe from malaria and so that children do not miss school. Finally, since March 2020, 8,100 clean cooking stoves have been provided and since July 2020 education on COVID is provided regularly. All these program activities help communities break the vicious cycle of poverty, poor health, and low education so they can and enjoy a higher quality of life.

Plan for 2022: is to continue to expand the skill set of families with the provision of training, micro loans and ongoing support. This will empower women and help families break out of the vicious cycle of poor health-low income-low education-lack of opportunity.

Micro Loan Program Activities and Impact

New Program Activities Completed – Jan to December 2021

New Loans: provided to 81 women to bring the total number of current loan recipients to 551.

COVID response: To keep families safe from COVID, and to minimize its impact on businesses, the following changes were made:

  • Families are educated on prevention of COVID and provided with PPE (masks, soap).
  • Children from the community are invited to attend COVID education workshops.
  • On-site visits were minimized till July 2021, but we are now starting to increase these visits to monitor businesses.

Ongoing Program Activities in 2021

  • Active Loans: All 551 women enrolled receive ongoing training and support. Beneficiaries are more than 3,800 adults and children.
  • Business training provided to 889 women. The goals of business training are to train loan recipients in (i) how to run a profitable business, (ii) overcome challenges, (iii) work as a team, and (vi) develop relationships of mutual support. All training modules are supplemented with hands on exercises, work sheets, real world examples, and group discussions. Training is conducted in a COVID safe manner (PPE is provided). Post training women receive their first loan to start/expand businesses.
  • Refresher training provided to 470 women after completion of their second loan cycle.
  • Business mentoring provided to 470 women.
  • Ongoing business monitoring: All loan recipients enrolled receive advice regarding product display, maintenance of accounts, bookkeeping, inventory management etc.
  • Support and Repayment Meetings (held in a safe manner). The women make loan repayments and have an opportunity to educate each other on issues such as HIV prevention and care, importance of school, and challenges faced. To keep women safe from COVID these meetings have been minimized such that only 25% of the women make weekly repayments. The remaining make repayments monthly or two times a month.
  • Repayments rates: Loan repayment rates are between 86-90% despite difficult circumstances faced by most women.
  • Clean cooking stoves provided to 8,100 families: In Zambia, most families use charcoal for cooking and heating which generates smoke that is harmful to health. The stoves are environmentally friendly, use less fuel, generate little smoke, and are easy to use. Use of these clean cooking stoves has reduced fuel costs, and smoke inhalation. In addition, the women are encouraged to use the stoves as an income generating asset.
  • Insecticide treated nets provided to keep families safe from malaria. The WHO approved new malaria vaccine, is a huge step in malaria prevention. However, for the next few years the vaccine will need to be used along with traditional methods of malaria control such as mosquito bed nets and anti-malaria drugs.
  • Total businesses: A total of more than 1,500 businesses are being run by women currently enrolled (551) and those who have graduated (1,000) from the program over the last 10 years. 

Program Impact: In a relatively short span of time (about 8-12 months), most loan recipients are economically stable as earnings from businesses help pay for food, medicines, rent, school expenses and household purchases. In addition, families are more knowledgeable about HIV, COVID and malaria, improve in health, more children attend school, and men come forward to help with businesses. Further, most women are now financially literate, enjoy a higher social status, and there is improved gender equality.

Short and Medium Term: There is an improvement in the diet, nutrition, and health of families; more than 1,600 children were able to attend school in 2021 alone, families have better knowledge about HIV prevention and care; many women purchased a plot of land or extended/built homes; more women are financially literate and have built strong social networks. 

Long term impact is illustrated by:

  • Skills Development: Women learn a variety of business skills that include record keeping (leads to better information on inventory, sales, profits, receivables etc.), customer service, and financial literacy.
  • Acquire new habits: Women start saving a small amount each week via mobile banks (as these are cheaper and easier to operate than commercial bank accounts) or village banks. 
  • Better knowledge about HIV and malaria leading to better health and higher earnings.
  • Build relationships of mutual support that are helpful in the long run.
  • Change in culture as men (husbands, sons) support businesses and help with childcare.
  • Quality of life: Women are self-reliant, enjoy a higher status in the community and become role models/leaders.
  • Education: More children are in school/vocational training.
  • Stronger community: The community is better equipped to break out of the vicious circle of poverty, poor health, and a low level of education.

Family sustainability: Women are self-reliant as they (i) are running successful businesses, (ii) are socially and economically empowered, and (iii) have acquired lifelong skills. With better health, children in school and stable income, family are more sustainable.

Community strengthening: More than 50% of women who have graduated over the past 10 years are still running businesses in the community. Currently, more than 1,400 businesses are running that were started by loan recipients currently enrolled/graduated from this program. In addition, more than one-third of graduates have made investments in land, shops, and home extensions so they have a stable and sustained source of income. This implies that a relatively small investment results in economic empowerment for the women, family sustainability, gender equity, and a stronger community that can solve problems without assistance from outside.

Plan for 2022

  • Provide 75 new loans to bring the total number of active loans to 626.
  • Provide business training to 650-700 women.
  • Provide refresher training to all women enrolled.
  • Provide business mentoring to all women enrolled.
  • Track all loan recipients so they continue to operate in the community even after graduating the program.
  • Stay connected with graduates and encourage them to mentor/train new loan recipients.
  • Encourage clean cooking stove recipients to use these as an income generating asset.
  • Train 50 women to start back yard gardens to further improve their diet and nutrition.

Building More Sustainable and Peaceful Communities

We measure success by ensuring sustainability of the family and not so much by repayment rates and financial sustainability of the program. Family sustainability is measured by an improvement in health, children attending school, financial literacy, asset acquisition and other factors such as improved gender equity, women role models, and strong social networks.

To sum, program activities result in poverty alleviation, an improvement in the health of families, education for children, and asset acquisition by women. Education and training enable families to break the cycle of poverty, reduce income inequalities, and improve gender equity. In the long term, communities are stronger and more sustainable and peaceful.

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