Power of Love’s (POL) microloans program empowers women impacted by HIV and AIDS to take their first steps toward self-reliance. By learning basic business practices, our new women entrepreneurs are better equipped to run small businesses and are therefore able to take better care of their families. The POL program is located in the community of Matero, in Lusaka, Zambia. Matero is one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, with a population of approximately 85,000.
This community is characterized by a high incidence of HIV and AIDS, which has a prevalence rate of 14% among adults aged 15-49. The unemployment rate is also staggering at upwards of 60%. As a result, the majority of the community are poor and live on less than $1 per day. Women in Matero regularly provide care for one or more sick family members. POL microloan recipients have been able to thrive in this difficult environment by learning marketable skills and running a profitable small business, thereby supporting all dependents in their households.
Direct Impact of our Loans Program in 2014
1. Diet and Nutrition: Almost all 225 women are able to provide two or more meals per day for their families as compared to one meal per day before they joined our loans program.
2. Schooling: Most women have been able to support their children with school requirements such as fees, books, uniforms, shoes, writing utensils, and transportation money for those who use public transport. In 2014, as a result of this program, 22 children were enrolled at the University, 123 children returned to school due to their caregiver's financial stability, and 52 children started grade one this last month alone. In addition, 156 children are able to continue their education because their caregivers were able to pay for school expenses (uniforms, shoes, books, and stationery).
3. Household purchases: A majority of the women were able to purchase household items such as TV stands, pressure cookers, televisions, radios, DVD players, dinner sets, cooking pots, etc. These purchases would not have been possible without the earnings from their businesses.
4. Savings: About 175 women have been saving via bank accounts and an additional 40 women are saving at home. We are proud of these women who are saving a certain amount each week, as this is new habit for them. The amount saved each week is small, but it helps the women to take care of unexpected expenses and to continue to run their business after they have been weaned off the loan program.
5. Capital Acquisition: A group of 16 women pooled their savings to rent a piece of land for growing cotton and beans. These ladies got the idea from their mentors who themselves had purchased a piece of land for farming purposes and are doing well. An additional 16 women have purchased a piece of land each for purposes of constructing a house (for rent or as a home for themselves). Two of the ladies have laid the foundation for construction.
6. Business Expansion: Out of the total group of 225 women, 187 women have expanded their businesses and increased their capital by 50-60%. These dynamic ladies have invested funds in projects and products that will help sustain their businesses even after they are weaned off the loans program after three loan cycles. Moreover, they will continue to mentor new loan beneficiaries and have become role models for others in the community.
POL’s Program is Unique
Loans provided to POL microloan recipients have immediate impact on the entire family - the program is completely integrated with POL’s pediatric HIV care and malaria prevention programs. As such, the pediatric HIV care and malaria prevention programs provide microloan recipients with the extra support they need (via food, medicines, packages of healthcare services, and mosquito bed nets) while they learn how to run their businesses. These factors significantly increase their chance of success in business.
Women and children have been disproportionately impacted by the HIV and AIDS epidemics in Africa; hence, they are the main beneficiaries of POL’s comprehensive programs. The vision behind all of our programs is to strengthen communities impacted by HIV and AIDS by empowering women.