Small Enterprise Foundation

2023 Project

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Small Enterprise Foundation

Established in 1992, SEF works towards sustainable poverty eradication, by enabling the poor to increase their income through microcredit, for self-employment and by assisting them in the accumulation of savings. SEF currently has ~180 000 active clients, and operates in 7 out of 9 provinces in South Africa. SEF recognizes that clients are exposed to multidimensional social vulnerabilities (poverty, IPV, HIV) – thus requiring a holistic approach to poverty elimination SEF is the is the leading developmental microfinance institution in South Africa.

IMAGE Programme

The IMAGE Project is a community-based HIV and GBV prevention programme. Based in rural South Africa, the intervention is the first of its kind that combines a group-based microcredit programme, with gender and HIV training. The curriculum is delivered monthly to female clients during centre meetings. The purpose of IMAGE is to improve the economic well-being and independence of communities, reduce participants’ vulnerability to HIV and GBV, and foster robust Community Mobilisation to address common concerns within participants’ villages.



Goals (SDGs)


A South Africa where economically empowered women live free from gender-based violence and HIV


Our mission is to build robust communities through the empowerment of women in the poorest areas of South Africa by supporting sustainable livelihoods, challenging gender norms to reduce the risk of GBV and HIV, and creating lasting social change through the mobilisation of community networks


The microfinance component of the intervention is delivered in partnership with the Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF). SEF administers loans exclusively to the poorest women in rural villages for the development of income-generating activities.


In addition to the microfinance component described above, the second component of the IMAGE intervention includes a participatory gender and HIV training programme called Sisters for Life, which is fully integrated into routine loan centre meetings and is delivered alongside microfinance services by a separate team of trainers. SFL comprises of two phases delivered over 13 months.


of women in South Africa have been raped at some point in their lifetime


of South African women reporting having experienced domestic violence.


of South African women living in poverty.


European Microfinance 

Award (2022)

The project has received the Gold Medal for excellence in Corporate Social Investment by the American Chamber of Commerce.

IMAGE Project received prestigious International Woman’s Day Award. – Washington D.C. 04 March 2009

Gold for Corporate Social Investment Excellence with IMAGE

Clients Impacted

Hear from the women who’s lives have been impacted by the IMAGE programme

Lesego’s – story

Names have been changed to protect the identity of clients.

My mother was married to my stepfather who was sexually abusing me and my younger brother. She did nothing about the many incidents of abuse that were happening at home. She sacrificed us children to keep her marriage going. My brother got fed up and ran away to stay with strangers till he died, and I decided to go and stay with my boyfriend. I am now living a better life because of SEF’s money and the teachings [from IMAGE]. I am now working on building a home for my children. My boyfriend is good to me but I don’t think I can trust him with my kids as I don’t want history to repeat itself. Till today my mother does not care about the abuse we went through. What hurts the most is seeing my mom happy with my half-siblings and their father, while rejecting me.

Rethabile’s – story

Names have been changed to protect the identity of clients.

My husband has always been abusive, but after he resigned from his job things became worse. He accuses me of sleeping around, demands money from me, and verbally abuses me – swearing and calling me bad names. He also brutally abuses me sexually. When I refuse to be intimate with him, he abuses me physically and humiliates me by pouring 25 litres of water on me while I am sleeping, saying ‘you will see where you are going to sleep now’. I opened a case against him and applied for a protection order but he doesn’t care. I have now been able to file for divorce and am planning to move out

Mahlatse’s – story

Names have been changed to protect the identity of clients.

My husband has been neglecting me, and not taking care of my emotional, financial and sexual needs. I recently found out that the reason for this was because he has been raping and sexually abusing our own daughter. So, I decided to move out and marry another man. However, I still have fear of reporting the matter to officials. The Community Training Facilitators advised me to get professional help for my daughter.

Make an impact on the lives of South African women & their communities

The IMAGE programme accepts funding from







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