POL Posts: Blogs, Reports & Updates
February 28, 2020

Impact of Our Micro Loans Program in 2019

We Can End Poverty

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. The UN has set goals to  end poverty, ensure healthy lives, and provide education to all children by 2030. In accordance with these goals, our micro loans program provides business training and small loans to vulnerable women. Access to credit enables poor people to become entrepreneurs, increasing their earnings and improving their quality of life.

Program Activities for Poverty Alleviation and Better Health Completed in 2019  

  • Active Loans: At present 400 women are enrolled,  and more than 800 women are running businesses in the community. Beneficiaries are more than 6000 family members. 
  • Business training: A total of 407new women were provided with business training.    
  • Refresher training: 400 women were provided with refresher training after completion of thwir first loan cycle. A total of three consecutive laons are provided.
  • Higher loan capital: provided to 209 women to improve profits and savings.
  • Business mentoring training: 400 women were provided with business mentoring.
  • Pilot Internship module: A pilot internship module was added to the existing business training modules.  
  • Mentoring via on-site visits: All 400 women were provided with ongoing business mentoring. On-site visits by loans officers provide business advice on product display, maintenance of accounts, bookkeeping, inventory management etc.
  • Weekly Support Meetings: All women meet weekly to make repayments, learn from other business owners, and discuss issues of importance to them such as HIV prevention and care, importance of school, and challenges faced in running their businesses. An additional outcome is that the women build strong social networks. 
  • Repayments rates: Loan repayment rates are between 88-90% despite difficult circumstances faced by most women. 

Program Impact: In a relatively short span of time, most loan recipients are economically and socially empowered. They are running businesses that help pay for food, medicines, rent, school expenses, are more financially literate, and enjoy a higher social status. In addition, the health of the whole family improves, children start attending school, and families are more knowledgeable about HIV and malaria. Overall, this program continues to make a significant and sustained impact on the lives of thousands of community residents.

Plan for 2020: Expand the program by adding 70 new loans in April 2020 to bring the total number of current loan recipients to 470.

About Power of Love’s Micro Loans Program

Need and Location: Power of Love’s micro loans program is located in Matero - one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, Zambia. Matero and neighboring compounds have a population of approximately 150,000 to 175,000 and are characterized with a high incidence of HIV, and unemployment rates upward of 60%. Most residents live on less than a $2 per day – defined as extreme poverty by the UN. It is our estimate that an additional 4000 women in Matero can benefit from this program.

Typical Beneficiaries: Direct beneficiaries are women and children as they have been disproportionately impacted by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Most beneficiaries have no source of income, few marketable skills, have never been to school, and may not know how to read or write. They range in age from 35 to 67 years, and most are single moms/grandmothers caring for multiple orphaned children/grandchildren. The number of direct beneficiaries is 400 women, and indirect beneficiaries are 2,800 family members as on average each loan recipient cares for seven people out of which 4-5 are children.

Our Vison, Mission and Goals: Our vision is for increased gender equity and sustainability in communities that we work with. Our mission is to empower women so that the community is stronger and more self-reliant. Our goals are: (i) equip women with the tools they need to run a successful business, (ii) create conditions for women to be socially empowered, 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: Women enrolled are provided with business training and a loan to start a business. Subsequently, they attend weekly support meetings, refresher training, and business mentoring sessions. In addition, loan officers visit businesses on-site to offer advice on products, display, inventory management and record keeping. Each woman receives three consecutive loans. These program activities increase the probability to business success and, in turn, family sustainability.

Typical Businesses started with loans range from groceries (fruits, cooking oil, eggs, detergent, tea, soft drinks, vegetables, beans, kapenta (dried fish), fresh fish, mealie meal (a Zambian staple), restaurants, hair salon, cosmetics, used clothing, floor polish, used shoes, used toys, Chitenge (Zambian skirts), etc. More recently, a few women have started selling higher value items such as bed sheets, cell phones, cosmetics, phone covers, prepaid cell phone cards, wedding accessories, jewelry, blankets, floor polish etc. Stories of three women who started businesses with the help of loans are given on pages 7 and 9 below.

This program is unique as we try to reach the entire family through multiple programs. For example, all families receive mosquito bed nets, education on malaria, and are encouraged to enroll in our pediatric HIV care,  and “Safe Park” programs. This multi-pronged approach significantly increases the loan recipient’s chances of success. Second, we are embedded in the communities as we have been working with them for the past 15 years. Our loan officers, social workers and accounts officers know beneficiaries on a personal level and understand their circumstances. Church pastors and community organizations provide us with referrals. This has resulted in community participation in the design and implementation of project activities.

Project sustainability? We are confident that families will be more sustainable both from the economic and health aspects as beneficiaries are, (i) better qualified to run businesses that will generate a long-term source of income, (ii) more self-reliant and empowered both socially and economically, and (iii) training in business develops skills that are a permanent asset. In addition, our graduates become role models/mentors for other women by teaching them business skills, encouraging them to work hard, and discussing how to overcome challenges. A relatively small investment of resources can lead to improved business and life skills for the larger community.

Impact of Program Activities

Short and Medium Term: Program activities outlined above have resulted in a huge and sustained impact on hundreds of families in our community. These activities help break the vicious circle of poverty and low education. Over the past 14 years, we have seen that: loan recipients learn how to run a business and have gathered enough capital to continue running their business in a relatively short (about 12-18 months) span of time; the diet and nutrition of all families improves leading to better health; more than 400 children have been able to attend school in 2019 alone; families are better informed about HIV prevention and care; many women have invested in income earning assets such as an extra room or a plot of land; are more financially literate, and have built strong social networks. In addition, most women have become role models and mentors, enjoy a higher status, and are on the road to self-reliance.

Long term: We believe that this program has a long term sustained impact due to:

  • 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 improved financial literacy.
  • Acquire new habits: Women start saving a small amount either at home or via mobile banking. 
  • Better knowledge about HIV and malaria leads to better health and higher earnings.
  • Built relationships of mutual support these are helpful in the long run.
  • Change in culture as men (husbands, sons) support businesses and help with caring for children.
  • Quality of life: Women enjoy a higher status in the community as they share their knowledge, become role models, and demonstrate self-reliance.
  • Stronger community: The community is better equipped to break out of the vicious circle of poverty and low level of education.

Further, long term impact is demonstrated by the fact that, businesses started several years ago, are still running in the community. Over the last ten years, 50% of the more than 1000 women who have graduated from this program are still running businesses in the community. At this time, that there are about 750 businesses running in the community that are owned by women who are currently enrolled or have graduated over the last 10 years. In addition, more than one-third of graduates have made investments in land, shops, and home extensions so they now have a sustained source of income. As a result, with better health and children in school, families are more self-reliant, and the community is stronger.

Overall, the long-term impact is a more well informed (educated and financially literate) community that can find and implement solutions to its problems, so that it does not need assistance from outsiders. Second, improved gender equity has multiple positive results such as empowered women, happier residents, and a more peaceful and sustainable community. 

Plans for 2020

  • Expand the program by adding 50 new loans in April 2020 to bring the total number of women enrolled to 450.
  • Provide business training to 200-250 new women.
  • Provide refresher training to 200-300 women after they complete their first loan cycle.
  • Provide business mentoring training to 400 women.
  • Track the 450 (this includes the 50 new loans) active businesses intensively so they continue to operate in the community even after the women graduate.
  • Analyze the impact of the pilot internship module.
  • Track businesses run by women graduates.

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 our program. As a result, with improved health of families, increase in the number of children in school, reduced stigma associated with HIV, and better information about HIV, the community has become stronger. In addition, women entrepreneurs feel economically and socially empowered; they invest in income earning assets, have built strong social networks, and enjoy a higher status in the community.

The long-term impact is a more well informed (educated and financially literate) community that can find and implement solutions to its problems, so that it does not need assistance from outsiders. Second, improved gender equity has multiple positive results such as empowered women, happier residents, and a more peaceful and sustainable community

In accordance with the UN sustainable goals, program activities are designed to alleviate poverty, improve the health of families, and keep children in school. Education and training in income generating skills allows families to break from the cycle of poverty, reduces income inequalities, and helps reach gender equality. Income stability empowers people everywhere to live more healthy and sustainable lives and is crucial to fostering tolerance and building more peaceful communities.

Thanks for your caring.  We could not have achieved our goals without you.

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