POL Posts: Blogs, Reports & Updates
March 9, 2024

Achievements of Women Enrolled in POL's Micro Loans and Training Program

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 is building a community of empowered and self-reliant women entrepreneurs.

Rationale for a Microloans program and the Impact of COVID

About Zambia: Zambia is a democratic country, rich in mineral resources and a young population (median age of 17 years). The country has made considerable progress in the 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 its 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 training in income generating activities, healthcare, and education.

Impact of COVID, Climate change: In the past 3-4 years, more countries are facing growing levels of food insecurity and loss of livelihood due to COVID, climate change, and conflict. As a result, the world in not on track to achieve the UNs SDGs by 2030. However, recent studies conclude that that the goals of mitigating the impact of climate change and poverty reduction need not be in conflict if vulnerable populations are provided with food, clean energy, education, health, water, and sanitation. These provisions will result in a higher human well-being, and an improvement in the quality of life.

Access to credit is a solution: Provision of microcredit expands the financial choices available to vulnerable women and is a cost-effective solution that generates income and keeps children in school. Since a majority of the world survives on just $2 per day, microfinance becomes a solution that can help more people improve their living conditions and educate children. 

Our response: For the last 15 years, our focus has been to increase the marketable skills of women so that they can gain financial independence. We work toward this goal by the provision of entrepreneurial training and loans to an increasing number of women every year. In addition, we provide ongoing training and support and monitoring to ensure business success. Also, other services provided include the provision mosquito bed nets, education in disease prevention, training, and safe water filtration systems to families. All program activities are designed to reduce poverty, make families more sustainable, offset the impact of higher food prices, and loss of livelihood due to climate change.

Our Vison is for all families to be sustainable. Studies have shown that if women are empowered and children are educated communities will be more sustainable. 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.

Micro Loans Rationale and Program Impact

We believe that access to credit is a fundamental right and availability of credit is an effective solution for unlocking the income potential, reducing poverty, and improving health for all. In most developing countries, poor households have their best resource, labor, “locked up,” due to constraints such as a lack of liquidity. For example, a poor household may have family members who are willing to work on the family farm/garden but may not have sufficient funds to purchase farm inputs or improved crop varieties. If this liquidity constraint is addressed, the household can raise its standard of living. Financial inclusion via provision of loans/micro finance can play a significant role in unlocking the constraints faced by disadvantaged populations. Benefits of financial inclusion and choices range all the way from enabling people to put food on the table, educating children, and reducing the stress of poverty in a sustainable way. In addition, beneficiaries begin to feel “they matter,’ which is transformative. Instead of focusing on survival they begin to look for ways to thrive.

Power of Love’s women’s empowerment program continues to benefit more than 16,000 (currently enrolled and graduates) women and their families in Zambia. Earnings from businesses started with loans 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 (>2300 in 2023), the women are financially literate, and there is an improvement in gender equality.

All women and their families receive insecticide treated nets to keep them safe from malaria and so that children do not miss school. Over the last three years, 8,100 clean cooking stoves and education on COVID was provided. In 2023, safe water filtration systems were provided to families that lack access to clean water. All these program activities help communities break the vicious cycle of poor health, low education, low income, and lack of opportunity.

Plan for 2024

  • Expand the program by adding 50 loans.
  • Increase the size of loans to improve profits and sales.
  • Provide training in business skills and entrepreneurship to 500 women.
  • Provide refresher training and business mentoring to all 615 women enrolled.
  • Monitor businesses closely to ensure success.
  • Encourage graduates to mentor/train new loan recipients.
  • Track pre/post-enrollment home expenses to measure ROR and improve program impact.
  • Continue to partner with community organizations such as churches to build trust.

Micro Loan Program Activities and Impact

Progress toward the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030 has been slower than planned due to climate change, COVID, and conflict. However, according to a study by Project Drawdown, "the world should not have to choose among human development, poverty eradication, climate mitigation, and climate adaptation.” One solution is the provision of food, clean cooking, education, health, water, and sanitation resulting in both poverty alleviation and mitigation of the impact of climate change. Consequently, our focus has been on increasing the number of women who receive entrepreneurial training and loans, mentoring, and ongoing support every year to ensure business success.

 Program Activities Completed in 2023

Power of Love’s women’s empowerment program continues to benefit more than 13,000 (currently enrolled and graduates) women and their families in Zambia. Program activities include the provision of three consecutive 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.

In 2023:

  • 543 new women received business training,
  • 597 women received business mentoring,
  • 603 women received refresher training,
  • 93 new women received higher loan amounts to increase the probability of higher sales and profits, and
  • All 615 women enrolled received ongoing support and monitoring of their businesses via on-site visits.
  • Families continue to receive COVID education and PPE. In addition, children from the community are invited to attend COVID education workshops.

Ongoing Program Activities in 2023

  • Active Loans: All 615 loan recipients receive ongoing training and support. Direct beneficiaries every year, are more than 5,000 adults and children.
  • Business training provided to 543 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. Post training women receive their first loan to start/expand businesses.
  • Refresher training provided to 603 women.
  • Business mentoring provided to 597 women. Mentors are graduates of the loan program running successful businesses. Over the past year, the number of women who would like to mentor has increased steadily.
  • 93 new women received higher loan amounts to start businesses.
  • Ongoing business monitoring: All loan recipients enrolled receive advice regarding product display, maintenance of accounts, bookkeeping, inventory management etc.
  • Support and repayment Meetings: the women discuss and educate each other on important topics such as HIV, STI’s, importance of school, and challenges faced. Repayment rates are between 90-92% despite difficult circumstances.
  • Insecticide treated nets and education on malaria provided to keep families safe from malaria.
  • Education on disease prevention provided.

Program Impact: In a short span of time (about 8-12 months), most loan recipients are economically stable as earnings from businesses help pay for necessities, school expenses and small household purchases. There is a demonstrable improvement in the health of families, more children attend school (>2,300 to date in 2023), women are financially literate, and there is an improvement in gender equality. In addition, families share information regarding HIV, COVID and malaria so that the larger community benefits.

At present there are 1,841 businesses (615 by current loan recipients and 1,226 by graduates over the past 10 years) that are running because of this program, benefiting more than 13,000 adults and children. The impact is multi-generational. With more children attending school and graduating high school, they can aspire to careers out of reach of their parents and educate their own children.

A unique outcome of program activities is that several churches, requested that their women parishioners receive business training. Currently, we are partnering with multiple churches to train women in business skills and entrepreneurship. To date, 1,780 women from different churches have received business training. The demand for these courses has grown organically. At present, we have more than 800 women awaiting training.

Program Success and Metrics

Short and Medium Term: There is an improvement in the diet, nutrition, and health of families; more than 2,600 children attend school/skills training/help with family businesses, 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. Older children help with businesses.
  • Better knowledge about HIV/malaria/COVID leads to better health and higher earnings.
  • Build relationships of mutual support that are helpful overall.
  • 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: Communities are better equipped to find solutions that work best for their environment and culture.

Family sustainability: Families are more sustainable, and women are self-reliant as they (i) are running successful businesses, (ii) are socially and economically empowered, and (iii) have acquired lifelong skills. In addition, there is an improvement in gender equity and families can break out of the vicious circle of poverty-poor health-low education-lack of opportunities.

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 1,800 businesses are running that were started by women 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. Making a small investment through the provision of loans and training, results in economic empowerment for the women, family sustainability, improved gender equity, and a stronger community that can solve problems without assistance.

Plan for 2024

  • Expand the program by adding 50 loans to bring the total to 665 active loans.
  • Increase loan size to improve profits and sales.
  • Provide business skills and entrepreneurship training to 500 women.
  • Provide refresher training and business mentoring to all women enrolled.
  • Monitor businesses closely to ensure success.
  • Encourage graduates to mentor/train new loan recipients.
  • Track pre/post-enrollment household spending to improve program impact.
  • Continue to partner with community organizations such as churches to build trust.

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 factors such as: an improvement in health, children attending school, financial literacy, asset acquisition, improved gender equity, women leaders/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 which in turn mitigate the impact of climate change. In the long term, communities are stronger and more sustainable and peaceful.

 

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