World Education is dedicated to improving the lives of the poor through education, and economic and social development programs.

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Reducing Women's Vulnerability to HIV through Small Loans


Sokha Niang enjoys a new sense of self-worth and financial independence
with the success of her small business.

"Because of my business, I can pay for school supplies and medicine for my children, and there is always enough food on the table." - Sokhna Niang, Saving Women's Lives

Sokhna Niang knows first-hand how a small financial loan can change the life of a woman and her family. As a mother of five and small business owner in rural Senegal, she credits her ability to support her family to a small business loan.

In many parts of the world, access to credit is a major obstacle to escaping the cycle of poverty, leaving women vulnerable to exploitation and increasing their risk of contracting HIV and AIDS. Without credit, it is almost impossible to start and grow small businesses that can increase household income. By gaining some financial independence, women improve their status within their household and are better able to provide for their children's education and care without seeking outside help.

In January 2007, as a member of the Rural Association for the Fight against AIDS (ARLS), Sokhna took out a small business loan of about $50. With this money she was able to start a business selling tea and bread from a stand, large enough for her tea kettle, hot plate, and two tables. As her small restaurant grew, she purchased tables and chairs and expanded the menu to include meat and fruit.

ARLS is an 8,000 member women's federation and World Education's partner in Saving Women's Lives, a program dedicated to reducing women's vulnerability to HIV through innovative public education campaigns. In November of 2006, World Education and ARLS launched a savings and credit initiative to increase household income for women vulnerable to and affected by HIV and AIDS.

Through regular meetings of borrowers, Saving Women's Lives strengthens women's connections to each other, creates a safe space where they can share successes and hardships, discuss business ideas, and support one another to take more control over their lives. Since the program started, ARLS has distributed over 500 loans totaling more than $125,000 and maintains a repayment rate of 99.2%.

Within six months, Sokhna had repaid her loan and borrowed a second loan to further expand the business. Her success as a small business owner has given her a sense of financial independence and improved self-worth. "I would encourage other women to take out a loan and open their own business because, with the support of ARLS, they will easily pay it back and still make a profit," she says. Now, Sokhna is able to purchase school supplies, uniforms, medicine, and food for her children.