Thursday, 24 September 2015

Microfinance in Zeze - transforming womens' lives with small loans

In August I spent a week in Zeze village and met the chair, vice chair and secretary of the microfinance group, as well as many of the women who have received loans. 

I  also visited many of them in their homes and businesses and spoke to the Village Chairman, Village Executive Officer, and chair of MVG, who are running the scheme who all confirmed the positive impact the scheme is having on the village. 

Petronia had her loan in May, thanks to a new injection of funds from Wabia. She buys palm oil from farmers in the fields and resells it in the market, making approx. £8 profit per week.  Recently her 8 month baby started excreting blood and she was able to take her to the doctors and buy medicine.  Without her business she said she would have been unable to do that.

Pendo buys petrol in large containers and decants it into litre bottles which she sells in the market and on the road.  Her profits mean that she is able to pay for her son, who was unemployed, to study to be a mechanic.

Edita received her loan last month.  She is making bible covers for 80p that she sells for £1 in Kasulu, the town 40 km away that she visits twice a week.  She had sold 40 to a shop there the previous day.  She is saving to purchase a second sewing machine so her husband can also make them at the same time.  She also wants to branch into mpesa (mobile money) 

Josrene had an initial £18 loan which she repaid,  then a £50 loan in May.  She collects maize and beans from farmers in the field and then grinds flour and then sells in bulk to buyers from Kigoma.  She is saving to build a bigger house for her family with larger storage capacities as she wants to sell wholesale directly in Kigoma in the future.

Godliva had a second loan in June.  She also sells beans and maize, but also soap. She gets a profit of 80p  per box for this.  She is saving money to get a soap factory so she can make her own soap.  This would cost £120 but she estimates it would bring her "20 a week profit.
What was generally striking was the pride with which the women talked about their businesses.  They have noticeably grown in confidence since I met them in January, and have a higher status in their family and in the village as a whole. Originally I was told that there was resistance from some men in the village, concerned that women getting loans would be a threat to their authority.  

Now the same men ask Benedicto when their wives can get a loan.  It was touching to see a number of the women working closely with their husbands as partners in the business, whereas previously they worked much more separately. This appears to have had a positive effect on their relationships, which was confirmed by the women themselves. In the training women were told “Don’t use your loan to exploit your husband, rather money should be a tool for strengthening the love in your family”.   They seem to have taken this to heart!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bringing broadband to Zeze School

School life in Zeze is rather different from the one I remember.  For a start most pupils walk for over an hour to get there.  They also have to carry water with them to clean the school  as there is no water source nearby.  Their parents are subsistence farmers who struggle to provide them with food and uniforms.  

There is no electricity in the village and kerosene is expensive, so they struggle to study after dark.  So Benedicto, TDT's enterprising local representative has set up student study groups.  Each group of 5 students was given one solar light, cost £4, which they share to study at night. Students are extremely ambitious.  They realise that doing well at school could be the only route out of poverty for themselves and their families. 

There are very few text books in the school, and none for research or further reading, so when I visited in June I brought a raspberry pi computer with downloaded content such as Wikipedia and Khan Academy videos on it.  As there is no electricity in the school they run this from a portable battery which they recharge in the headteacher's house which has solar panels.

But now Zeze has the opportunity to have a free satellite broadband installation, courtesy of funding from the UK Space Agency.  Very few of the students have ever left the village.  There are no female staff. The headteacher, Mr Mabhuye is very keen for the  girls to have successful role models to boost their confidence.  He is also keen to develop links with schools in the UK to expand their horizons and share ideas. 

However there is a catch.  They need to install solar power in the school by the end of September in order to order to benefit from this offer.  At a cost of £780 this is way beyond the scope of the school. If you would like to contribute to this project you can do so here.  All donations gratefully received.