This month we are excited to celebrate the launch of a new program: The Zamtsogoro Project—a small business loan and mentorship program for future entrepreneurs in Zambia. An extension of our existing youth empowerment programs, this project bridges the gap between education and employment opportunities to prepare young professionals for their futures.
This project’s name, ‘Zamtsogoro’, means ‘for the future’ in the local language—reflecting our commitment to building programs that have each individual’s future in mind.
Throughout Zambia, unemployment rates remain high amidst ever changing world conditions and a struggling economy—a major barrier preventing the young adults in our programs from becoming self-reliant. Due to local economic instability that continues year-to-year, new professionals/graduates face the same competitive and limited employment prospects each year. This creates a large pool of capable, yet unemployed workers who struggle to find opportunity.
Additionally, those looking to pursue entrepreneurial ventures face challenges as loans are often inaccessible because of nation-wide financial instability. This leads to crippling interest rates and creates an insecure future for the borrower.
One of our mentors employed in our Be That Girl Program who recently retired from over 30 years as a top nurse in Zambia, told us that the 110,000 students who graduated from medical education programs this year were now seeking to fill only 6,000 positions that are available across the country for medical professionals
In the coming years, hundreds of the individuals MWB serves will graduate from university or skills training programs.
The vast majority of jobs that are available in Zambia are through the government and the process of obtaining work is also often very slow. Another education-focused mentor in the MWB Be That Girl Program received her teaching certificate 6 years ago. As all graduates with a teaching certificate are entered into a waitlist system upon graduation, she continues to wait for full-time employment as a teacher.
At the core of our work, Mothers Without Borders promotes individual development, self-reliance, and self-determination. Our staff continues to explore alternate routes to employment and self reliance to help those we serve combat these employment challenges.
This project will pair loan opportunities with mentorship to help prepare young professionals for their future—empowering them through early work experience to gain confidence, knowledge, and entrepreneurial skills.
All humans are born entrepreneurs.
– Muhammad Yunus
In late September, we began working with Robbie and Bill Lawler, long-term members of our community, to raise the $15,000 to initiate this program. In less than a month, the Lawlers rallied their friends and hosted an evening with Kathy Headlee, resulting in the raising of $16,000 for this project! With the generosity of these donors, we have launched this program and are moving forward with two initial loans!
Our founder, Kathy Headlee, named her organization ‘Mothers Without Borders’ because she believes in committing to the holistic and long term needs of each individual. This name has become a reminder of the power of love in a work that can be heavy and daunting and of our commitment that, amidst uncertainty, sorrow, and despair, we will continue to show up and fight for those we serve.
How is the program structured?
The Zamtsogoro Project is designed for young adults who have recently completed their university or skills training programs to provide our most promising and hard working graduates with business mentorship and access to loan opportunities. Applicants will either matriculate into a group loan initiative through a MWB-run small business or apply for a personal loan to continue in their business venture.
Those joining the group loan initiative will have individualized contracts that allow them employment in our MWB small business. Participants will gain experience managing cash flows, sales, and bringing a product or service to the market while taking home a portion of the profits. As young adults fulfill their individual contract and pursue other employment, they leave open a position for another recent graduate from our programs to continue in their place. This model allows more employment opportunities and supports the growth of the loan fund. Those who have the hard skills and experience to forgo the group initiative can apply directly for a loan.
For both individual and group loans, mentorship is an integral part of this program. Current Zambian mentors from our youth empowerment programs who have experience in entrepreneurial ventures will be assigned to help these young professionals navigate this journey. The young professionals, with the support of their mentors, will develop a business model and loan request. Together they will determine the structure of the loan, repayment plan, and mentorship route that will best support the new entrepreneur. A reasonable, low interest rate will be established for each recipient to ensure the loan pool continues to grow to provide this opportunity to others. Mentorship will continue until the loan is paid off. In a country where unemployment continues to be a barrier, this project is critical to bridging the gap between education and employment for those we have committed to serve.
Who will benefit from this program?
Our staff has identified one individual and one group of five young women to be the first recipients of this program. Two mentors from our local staff have been selected to oversee and support the individuals in these two loans. This year, the focus will remain on these two loans to allow us to assess and improve the structure of this pilot program. Designed as a continuation of our current youth education and empowerment programs, future recipients of loans will be selected by our local staff based on performance and potential for entrepreneurial success. To learn more about our youth empowerment programs, click here.