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IMAGE Project in South Africa Proposes Use of Microfinance in Struggle Against HIV/AIDS Infection



Under the direction of Dr. Paul Pronyk, Director of RADAR (Rural Aids and Development Action Research Programme), IMAGE (Intervention with Micro Finance for Aids and Gender Equity), “a community-based structural intervention for HIV prevention," was founded in 2001. The project is a collaborative effort supported by Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF), a microfinance non-governmental organization, University of the Witswatersrand (Wits), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Department of Health. IMAGE provides women with short term business loans of up to USD 1,300 operating on the presumption that an increase in earning power will encourage women to be more vocal at home, confronting unfaithful husbands about issues such as condom usage.

Domestic violence and AIDS infection have long plagued the eight villages outside of Burgersfort, Limpopo Province, South Africa where IMAGE currently operates. According to Dr. Pronyk, "of the approximately 400 women receiving loans, between 36 and 71 percent reported having been in a violent relationship." Not unrelated is the HIV/AIDS infection rate, which identifies one out of every three adults in the region as HIV positive. Image findings report that most women in the region accept their husband's extra-marital affairs as common practice. IMAGE claims most wives avoid confronting their spouses about such behavior, leaving their health at risk, as the male is typically the only wage earner and thus perceived as the unique authority in the household.

IMAGE believes the solution is to increase women's authority at home by increasing their earning power outside of the home via a microfinance program. Under the direction of SEF, women are provided with loans to support pre-existing and new small businesses. SEF has operated in Limpopo for over ten years. Over 8,000 loan recipients have participated in the signature SEF Tshomisano Credit Programme (TCP).

While loans are distributed to small groups of five women, they are to be used individually. Every two weeks loan recipients are required to participate in the second component of IMAGE, a participatory and action curriculum called Sisters for Life. Sisters for Life meetings are essentially workshops where women learn to confront their husbands about issues such as domestic violence, rape, and the importance of condom usage.

Loan recipient, Betty Nkele reports, "my business has improved, and I'm more aware of myself now. I've got plans. My own plans. So I'm not waiting for my husband to come home with money. I'm building my own future." IMAGE hopes to build new programs in the future addressing rape awareness and youth HIV prevention.


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By David Satterthwaite

About the Author: David Satterthwaite

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David brings 10 years of experience in microfinance management, social entrepreneurship, non-profit management/fund-raising and microfinance investment research. David is the Chairman and President of Prisma Microfinance, Inc., a retail “microbank” operating in Central America. He is also Chief Editor of MicroCapital.org, a news and information service for the microfinance community and its investors. Each month, MicroCapital.org publishes the MicroCapital Monitor, the leading industry newspaper. David writes and speaks frequently on microfinance. He has been a quest speaker at many events, including: Microcredit Summit 5+: Panel on Private Investment, Milken Institute Global Conference, United Nations Year of Microcredit Symposium for Wall Street, Chicago Conference on Microfinance, Harvard Social Enterprise Conference, Dartmouth’s Business Sustainability Conference, Wharton’s Conference on Social Entrepreneurship, Stanford’s Social Enterprise Club, Columbia’s Social Enterprise Program and the Net Impact Annual Conference. Through his work with Prisma and MicroCapital, he has been featured or quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, “All Things Considered,” Reuters and SocialFunds.com. David has been recognized with the Compaq Computer Corporation Leadership Award, the City Year Inspiring Leader Award and the National Social Venture Business Plan Competition award for Best Social Impact Analysis. David has supported many non-profit and for-profit social enterprises in different capacities, including Access Technology Learning Center, Agora Partnerships, Bridges to Business, City Year, Fonkoze, Kiva and National Social Venture Competition. David holds a B.A. with Honors in Political Science from Haverford College.
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