Zimele Programs

Our Zimele program empowers women who are often the head of their household due to the tragic consequences of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Our approach involves an intensive process that securing a safe environment for healthy growth enabling women to rise above poverty. We then provide training in business skills such as product design, marketing, bookkeeping and basic financial management. By building these entrepreneurial skills, communities will be able to sustain independent businesses.

We raise up women leaders who make key decisions for their communities advocating within local governing bodies. Change and social reform that follow such as access to health care, better education and employment opportunities positively affect the lives of the women.

Our main focus is to empower and build up women to become self-reliant through Self-Help Groups, Cluster Level Associations and Federations. Through working together in community with other women, they also receive vital support while they strive to improve their lives.

Self Help Group Model

Self Help Group Model

Self Help Groups (SHG)

Zimele currently oversees SHGs consisting of 10-20 women each. We work with women in small groups to provide safe, intimate environments for them to build their self-esteem and confidence and establish a strong support network. In this phase, women develop critical life and business skills so that they can start their own businesses and generate income to support their family’s needs. The start-up and operational costs of these businesses are funded through a structured savings and loans program where each women contributes a set amount to their group’s fund on a weekly basis. As the fund grows, women are able to take out loans to purchase materials for their businesses – i.e., seeds, tools, and equipment for agriculture businesses; fabric, sewing tools, and craft materials and small stores. All loans must be paid back at the end of each month with 10% interest to ensure the fund continues to grow.

Cluster Level Associations (CLA)

2 representatives from 6-8 SHGs form one CLA. CLAs representatives meet monthly and discuss how they can develop larger scale business and social service projects that benefit their entire communities. CLAs develop agriculture and craft hubs work in collective to strengthen their local economy and reduce the need for individuals to pay costly transportation fees to buy or sell goods in urban centers. CLAs also initiate social service projects that address critical needs such as home-based care for HIV/AIDS patients and childcare services for orphaned and vulnerable children. These projects are supported by a CLA savings fund that each participating SHG contributes to monthly. Each CLA decides how to distribute loans to support different projects and all loans must be paid back with interest to ensure the fund continues to grow.


Zimele is working towards creating its first Federation by 2014. The Federation will consist of 2 representatives from 8-10 CLAs and will act as a leadership council to advocate for economic, social, and healthcare reforms on a wider scale. This will include advocating for women’s rights, better access to HIV/AIDS clinical care in their communities and better schooling for children. The Federation will also be responsible for creating partnerships with banks to establish low-interest revolving loans for businesses and fundraising and government support for social service projects. The end goal for the Federation is to take over the management of SHG and CLA programs from Zimele as part of our long-term exit strategy in our current communities.

Fair-Trade Products

Zimele’s Fair-Trade Products provide a marketing outlet for the goods produced by the women of the Zimele Community. We train artisans to make items such as handbags, embroidered notebook covers, beaded pens, beaded key-chains and jewelry. Basic sewing skills and advance design skills are taught throughout the year in training courses and ongoing support.

Zimele acts as a facilitator between independent producers (craft, agriculture, etc.) in the local, national and international market allowing for a more efficient and broader sales strategy for the producers’ quality goods. Products are purchased by Zimele Fair-Trade from participants and then resold into markets. We actively pursue global distribution channels for its craft products that currently extends to USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Germany. If you are interested in purchasing items like these, please contact Christy Vinson at christy@zimelecommunity.org

Zimele Projects

Zimele projects are started organically from the individual or community where the greatest needs are and our staff guides the process by providing connections, resources and tools to help accomplish the goals in a self-sustaining manner.

Current projects include the following:

Orphans and Vulnerable Children [OVC]
Scholarships providing uniforms and funding so children can go to school. Community feeding programs delivered to the homes of orphaned and vulnerable children.

Home Based Care [HBC]
Support for people living with HIV/AIDS and TB. Provide care and medication for patients in need as well as the development of skills for the volunteers administering medical attention.

Creche [Daycare Centers]
Development of a pre-school in local communities. Provide a safe, nearby facility that foster healthy environment for learning and growth opportunities.

Computer Center
Build centers and source computers to create a technological learning space. Host certified courses women and children can process and prepare themselves for potential job placement.