How Women are Changing the Zimbabwean Economy

>> Authored by Tess Murphy (Kiva Fellow)

Although the market was overcrowded and dark, I could immediately spot Stellah standing proudly next to her hardware stall, dressed in bright pink and grinning ear to ear. She waves me over so she can show off her business, a hardware stall.

Stellah is the leader of the Mercedes Club Group, three borrowers who have taken out a group loan from the micro finance bank MicroKing, in Zimbabwe. Kiva partners with MicroKing to help offer low interest micro loans to entrepreneurs. Stellah is a shining example of how loans can help to transform lives.

Before my first loan, I had nothing. I wish you could take my picture then, so you can see the before and after of how I looked. I was a totally different person. I couldnt afford nice clothes. I could hardly afford anything.

Stellah used her first Kiva loan to buy supplies to sell and expand her product type. After Stellah’s second loan, she was able to buy a bigger table and move her stall to the front of the market. This new location had more foot traffic and helped to increase sales. With the third loan, Stellah now runs a shop in town with two employees in addition to her stall.  In the future, she hopes to take out another loan, and eventually expand her shop to sell plumbing and roofing materials.

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After showing me her business, Stellah walks me through the market and down a dirt path to Beullah’s house. Stellah, Beullah and Tabeth make up the Mercedes Club Group which, over the course of ten years, has taken out three loans. As we sit in the shade outside Beullah’s house, the ladies discuss how the changing Zimbabwean economy has had a direct impact on their families lives and their decision to start a business.  When their husband’s lost their jobs and they could no longer afford their children’s school fees, these women took matters into their own hands.

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Through a Kiva group loan, they have been able to start and expand their own businesses and set up a community of support along the way. In addition to providing for their families, these women take in orphaned children who lost their parents to HIV. Starting a business in an unpredictable economy can be challenging. That’s where group micro loans can help.

 

Group loans create a bond and support system among the members of the group that goes beyond the financial. Although they all run separate businesses (Stellah’s hard ware stand, Beullah’s clothing stall and Tabeth’s electrical shop), their lives have merged because of the loan. If one member of the group falls delinquent, than the entire group appears delinquent. This kind of social pressure around repayments serves as a form of collateral. They make sure everyones repayments are being done on time. If one is falling behind on loan repayments, the others pitch in to help out. Overtime, their lives and businesses intertwine and the success of one is contingent on the success of everyone.

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I am struck by the closeness of this particular group of borrowers. During the course of our conversation, they compliment one another on their successes and reflect on their rocky past. I find myself thanking them over and over again for sharing their stories, knowing their endurance and work ethic has made an impact on me. As I turn to leave, Stellah pulls me aside and adds: “You have no idea how much these loans have changed our lives. We are no longer dependent on men. We have peace of mind. And we are successful”. 

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