MicroLoan Foundation has unveiled an ambitious five-year plan to help 100,000 women in Africa work their way out of poverty every year.
By Anne Gulland
London, UK – At a fundraising and networking event at Christie’s auctioneers in south west London on November 9th, MicroLoan founder Peter Ryan announced that by 2021 the charity aims to double the number of women it supports each year.
MicroLoan’s mission is to provide the tools and skills to enable the poorest women in sub-Saharan Africa to work their own way out of poverty.
Currently, the charity is able to support 50,000 women annually with small loans and training but the charity hopes to increase that number to 100,000 within the next five years.
Ryan said, “We’re now in a good position to start growing the organisation and by 2021 we want to double the amount of women that we help. We want to give 100,000 women a year the chance to work their own way out of poverty.”
MicroLoan currently provides business loans to women in Malawi and Zambia and is hoping to be granted a licence from the Reserve Bank in Zimbabwe to start supporting women there within the next few weeks. However, the charity also wants to expand into Swaziland, Lesotho and the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa– but needs to triple its fundraising income to achieve this aim, said Ryan.
Ryan highlighted how every loan to one woman goes on to help many more – her family, her community and most importantly, her children. On average, each woman in sub-Saharan Africa is taking care of four children. The loans are used to set up simple businesses: for example, buying and selling vegetables or setting up a roadside restaurant.
“Our clients are resourceful, full of ideas and not afraid of hard work. But they lack the finance and the resources to unleash their talent. The whole success of this charity is not Microloan’s success but the success of those women,” said Ryan.
There are 767m people living in poverty around the world – half of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. And in Malawi 60% of the population of 8.6m will be malnourished by the end of this year because devastating floods followed by a severe drought is causing the worst famine on record for 25 years.
“This makes breaking the cycle of poverty even more difficult. It’s particularly hard for poor women. Poor women are marginalised – incredibly in Africa, when a husband dies the tradition is that all the property passes to his family,” said Ryan.
Lesley-Anne Alexander, former chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Blind People, has just joined MicroLoan’s board and urged those attending the fundraising event to do all they can to make a difference to these women’s lives.
She told of a recent trip to Malawi and Zambia to see the charity’s work on the ground where she met two impressive women – Rhoda and Florence – who have had loans and training from MicroLoan. Rhoda used her loan to set up a business selling paprika to wholesalers and she hopes her earnings will help her two boys complete high school. Florence, a widow, has set up a corn fritter business and her aim is that her youngest child will be able to complete her education and get an office job rather than take over her mother’s business.
Alexander said, “I’m struck by the ambition of this organisation to help more women out of poverty. But we’re not reaching enough women at the moment. The success of women in sub-Saharan Africa depends on the success of fundraising events.”
Dina Shiloh, a lawyer and former BBC journalist, has been a trustee of the charity for just over a year. She told how she wanted to get involved in a charity and Microloan “ticked lots of boxes.”
“The MicroLoan model is a great way to help women and teach them how to run a business. It’s very empowering,” she said.
Another trustee, ex-banker Danny Witter, said that MicroLoan has a huge impact on many lives.
“What MicroLoan does has a multiplier effect. It’s not just about helping women out of poverty but about helping their children into education. It’s taking whole families out of poverty – it’s effective and impactful,” he said.
Markus Goodwille is the son of Annika Goodwille who died earlier this year. Markus described his mother as a “very strong but silent supporter” of MicroLoan Foundation. Annika, who did not go to university and built her own business from scratch, was a firm believer in women’s education and empowerment and was keen to help women in Africa through donating to Microloan.
“When she died we asked that instead of flowers people donate money to MicroLoan instead,” Markus said. “My mother always spoke very highly of MicroLoan – I think one of the most impressive statistics is that up to 99% of loans are repaid.”
At the fundraising event six photographs of women entrepreneurs in Malawi, taken by the Hungarian photographer Mariann Fercsik, were auctioned. With donations still coming in, the event is expected to have raised upwards of £15,000. However, the event was also about connecting with individuals who can help the charity realise its ambitious vision of helping 100,000 women in sub-Saharan Africa every year by 2021.
MicroLoan also unveiled its new brand, which reflects the charity’s new ambition and direction. However, MicroLoan’s vision of a world where all those living in poverty are given the opportunity to build a better life for themselves, remains the same. As does its core purpose: to give hope, not handouts.