MicroLoan Foundation meeting

Women in rural Zambia are creating better, more secure lives for themselves and their families, thanks to funds from the Halcrow Foundation.

MicroLoan Foundation (MLF) helps women in sub-Saharan Africa to work their way out of poverty by giving them the tools and knowledge to generate income. Halcrow Foundation is funding MLF to deliver a programme in the Kapiri District in Zambia that provides women with free financial and business training, and small, affordable loans. This empowers them to generate income that they can use to achieve food security, access healthcare, and pay for their children’s education.

Limited opportunities

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), nearly 10 million Zambians – over half the population – live in poverty on less than USD1.90 a day. Women in Zambia’s poorest rural communities who strive to make better lives for themselves face multiple barriers. Cultural norms and traditions mean that the division of labour falls heavily on women which impacts education, access to healthcare, and decision-making.

Lack of business experience and asset ownership also make it difficult for these women to access credit, which in turn limits their opportunities to improve their family’s wellbeing.

MLF targets women living in poverty in remote rural areas, and their Loan & Training Officers (LTOs), who are local to the area,  ensure that even the most marginalised women are not excluded from the programme. Loan applications are carefully assessed to avoid the women becoming over-indebted, and ensure the women have a solid business plan. MLF doesn’t ask for loan collateral or previous business experience, and never repossesses assets in case of default.

Financial literacy and business training

Instead, MLF provides free financial literacy and business training in the women’s villages. The LTOs provide ongoing support for the women and help them form loan groups so they can support each other.

Women can use their business profits to improve their lives and their self-confidence, strengthening their decision-making power in the household. By saving regularly, these women can also increase their resilience against events such as bereavement, disease, extreme weather and political unrest.

Increasing opportunities

Halcrow Foundation funds will cover local staff salaries, operational costs and IT equipment over two years, supporting a regional programme that will enable around 1,000 women access their services and become economically empowered to run a small business and generate household income. This means an estimated 4,000 children will indirectly benefit, gaining better access to healthcare and education. These opportunities are particularly valuable for girls, who are often married at a young age and deprived of opportunities to fulfil their potential.

Malin Rosenkvist, Director of Fundraising and Communications at MicroLoan Foundation says: “We are tremendously grateful for Halcrow Foundation’s support of our work in Zambia. Thanks to them, we are able to open this new branch in Kapiri and expand our services so that even more women have the opportunity to build a small business and take their first steps out of poverty.”

About MicroLoan Foundation

MicroLoan Foundation is a UK-based charity that started as a not-for-profit organisation in Malawi in 2002. Since then it has expanded to Zambia and Zimbabwe, and to date, its livelihoods programme has economically empowered more than 243,000 women, benefitting 972,000 children.