CHOMBA MUSIKA, Choma
â€œWHEN my daughter completed high school last year, I was worried because I knew very well that she wants to study medicine but I did not have enough money to take her to the university.
â€œSo, for me, this money I have received today is a blessing from God. I will invest it in my business so that it can multiply and I will use part of my earnings to take my daughter to university so that she can have a better life in future,â€ says Hildah Imasiku, a trader of Choma, who is one of the beneficiaries of the Village Banking Programme.
Village banking is a government credit lending initiative aimed at empowering vulnerable but viable women, especially those in rural areas, to embark on income-generating activities.
Speaking in Choma recently when Government, through the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health disbursed K30,000 to 30 women entrepreneurs under theÂ empowerment programme, Ms Imasiku, who received K1,000, described the initiative as â€œa blessing from Godâ€.
â€œI am very happy to receive this money today. One of my children completed high school last year and I needed extra money to invest in my business so that I can save more to pay for her tuition fees. So, for me, this money is a blessing from God. He has answered my prayers, my daughter will have a chance to study and become a doctor,â€ the 57-year-old widow said after receiving the loan.
Ms Imasiku, a mother of seven, commended Government for the initiative and pledged to pay back the loan on time so that others can benefit from the scheme.
â€œAs I sell my vegetables, kapenta and the chickens that I rear, I will ensure that I pay back the loan so that others can also benefit from this project,â€ Ms Imasiku said.
And speaking when handing over the soft loans to the women, Choma district commissioner Sheena Muleya said the Village Banking Programme is an indication of Governmentâ€™s commitment to uplifting the welfare of vulnerable women.
Ms Muleya, who first gave a brief background of the implementation of the Village Banking programme in her district, said she is happy that the 98 women from both urban and rural areas of Choma who had received a total of K92,000 from the onset of the project last year have utilised the funds prudently.
The programme was introduced last year in Southern Province, where in Choma, the first implementing district, a seed amount of K50,000 was given to 68 women in Batoka and Macha areas.
The women were to pay back the loans in 25 weeks.
After a 100 percent pay-back for the loans by the women from Batoka and Macha, the programme was in March this year rolled out to Mbabala, a constituency within Choma, where 25 women received K22,000.
Twenty-eight women in Batoka were given K28,000 for the second cycle while 15 from Choma Urban were given K22,000, bringing a total to over 90 women who have benefited from the K92,000 disbursed this year.
This has delighted Ms Muleya as it is in line with Patriotic Frontâ€™s manifesto, which seeks to increase womenâ€™s participation in national development.
â€œWe can all see from the statistics that Government is committed to empowering women in our district through women empowerment programmes, thereby contributing to poverty reduction and sustainable development,â€ Ms Muleya said.
She said Government will continue implementing projects such as the Village Banking Programme to help eradicate poverty, especially among women who are identified as vulnerable.
â€œPoverty, in whatever form, is undesirable and tends to affect women more disproportionately than men. It is to this end that the village banking initiative is being implemented in rural and peri-urban areas where poverty is more prevalent,â€ Ms Muleya said.
She urged the women to prudently use the funds and warned them against using the money for shopping.
â€œI encourage you to adhere to the guidelines of the Village Banking initiative in order to pave way for other women to benefit just as you have. This can only be achieved when you work hard and pay back the weekly loan installments,â€ the commissioner told the recipients drawn from across the district.
Earlier, district community development officer Esther Bwali said she was confident the recipients, who were each given K1,000, will use the loans for the intended purpose, especially that they underwent a two-day training on entrepreneurship and saving, among other business courses.
Ms Bwali said she was proud that women who had previously received the money in the district have paid back the soft loans.
â€œIn terms of paying back of these loans, we experienced 100 percent, so I am confident that todayâ€™s beneficiaries will also pay back, especially that proper criteria were used to select the beneficiaries,â€ she said.
Ms Bwali said she was encouraged that the women, who previously accessed the soft loan, which may appear little, are now living a better life.
â€œThis programme is very important because it economically empowers women and removes them for poverty. And as the saying goes â€˜once you empower a woman, you empower the entire community,â€ she said.
And in a vote of thanks on behalf of the recipients, Idah Mudenda commended Government for its commitment to alleviating hunger and poverty among women.
â€œWe also thank the President for caring for the welfare of women and giving us this money. It will help end hunger and poverty in our homes,â€ Ms Mudenda said.
Now, a random survey in Chomaâ€™s central business district and some townships revealed that a number of women are not aware about the Village Banking Programme, a development which calls for the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health and other stakeholders to sensitise communities about the availability of the loans because they are aimed at eradicating poverty in households.
CHOMBA MUSIKA, Choma