Empower a Woman Living in Poverty in Malawi to Start a Small Business

Charity: MicroLoan Foundation
Location: Malawi
Genre: Income Generation
MicroLoan Foundation is providing women facing poverty with entrepreneurship training and access to small loans to invest in businesses.

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Many of the poorest families in Malawi are going hungry for several months of the year. The poorest people live in rural areas and women are more likely to be poor than men.

Women in these communities are often financially excluded and do not have the same access to education and training to help them to build businesses. Women also do 75% of unpaid work in the household which means they have less time to dedicate to their businesses to earn an income to support their family.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. This project contributes directly to the goals No Poverty, Zero Hunger and Gender Equality. The impact of our work also addresses the goals on Quality Education, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Climate Action, Life on Land and Partnerships for the Goals.


How MicroLoan’s project addresses this problem:

MicroLoan Foundation is providing women facing poverty with entrepreneurship training and access to small loans to invest in businesses. As they build a successful, profitable business they generate a steady income to provide for their families.



The training focuses on business and financial literacy skills such as market research, reinvesting profits, budgeting and making savings. The training is taught through song, dance and role play so that women who are unable to read and write are included.

The training is delivered in person by our well-trained Loan & Training Officers (LTOs), local individuals who travel to rural communities by motorbike. The training programme sets women entrepreneurs up for success, so that they grow their businesses, and grow their profits.


Woman in Malawi
Women with children_credit PeterCaton

25 women entrepreneurs in Kasungu, 5 groups of 5 women, will take part in financial literacy training, business skills training, and get access to small, affordable loans.

The women in our network grow their businesses and increase their profits. Once loans are repaid in full, further loans may be taken out and the loan cycle is repeated. Over time, women are able to take out larger loans as they experience success, gain confidence, and grow their businesses. Any further loan is also accompanied by ongoing training and one-to-one mentoring.

Over the years, we have seen that loan groups encourage shared learning and an inclusive environment, providing an optimum environment to build self-esteem.

The women have on average of four children each and as household income increases, the women can afford to feed their families a nutritious diet, pay for healthcare and send their children to school.

Women with children (1)

More Information

Ireen’s story

Ireen Phiri is a business owner and a smallholder farmer whose life changed dramatically when her husband passed away. As a mother to five children and a carer of two orphans, Ireen had to adapt quickly to secure her household’s survival. Having left school at 15 and after giving birth to her first child at the young age of 16, Ireen’s education ended abruptly.

After her husband’s death, she struggled to provide the basic necessities for her children such as regular meals and payment of school fees. Now on her 10th loan with MicroLoan Foundation, Ireen runs a successful grocery store and has one paid employee. She says that starting a business was extremely challenging in the beginning, and she struggled to make her business profitable which meant her grocery store was often empty of stock. She is particularly grateful for the financial literacy and business training she still receives from her supportive Loan & Training Officer.

Over time, her confidence blossomed, and Ireen was able to adjust her business model enough to grow her profits from MWK 7,500 to MWK 20,000 per week. She can now pay for her children’s school fees and her family eats three nutritious meals every day. She says the most important thing she learned from her training is how to save. Profits from her business have also enabled her to improve the condition of her house and pay for her youngest children’s school fees. When asked about the future, Ireen told us: “I want my children to become self-reliant and I am really excited to teach them how to run a business. Perhaps one of them will eventually join me in running the grocery store.”

Visit Website: MicroLoan Foundation