Women's Microfinance Initiative

Started by women in the Washington, D.C. area, WMI makes loans to impoverished women in developing nations who have no access to banks. Issuing affordable, collateral-free loans for as little as $50, WMI promotes women's economic empowerment to reduce global poverty. WMI's goal is to help poor women build assets to stabilize their income, improve their familiy's living standard, become advocates for their families/communities, and transition into independent banking and the formal economy.
Jan 8, 2013

Fall 2012 Update

Borrowers attend a health and education seminar
Borrowers attend a health and education seminar

This year, WMI was able to raise over a quarter of a million dollars to fund microloans for women in rural East Africa. Some of the contributions we received were from large institutions and foundations, but more than half of them came from individual donors like you who have made a dramatic difference in our Borrowers' lives. WMI was able to issue 3,000 new loans this year to women in rural Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. After several rounds of loans, our Borrowers graduate to loans from a more traditional bank. We are proud to say that 450 of our Borrowers have now transitioned to commercial bank loans.

The empirical and anecdotal data WMI has been collecting from women in the loan program for five years now document significant and sustainable improvements in household living standards for borrowers and their families. The improvements are both immediate (more meals and better medical care) and long-term (continuing education for children, improved family health, upgraded homes, cleaner water, solar power installations, and increased access to financial services). Families are not just working their way out of poverty - they are staying out of poverty. As WMI borrowers become more experienced with each year that goes by, they are expanding their businesses, accessing institutional financial services on a regular basis, and bringing improvements to their villages as they become better advocates for themselves, their families and their communities. In addition to wonderful statistics about the improvements to these women's lives because of their loans, we also measured how we're using our funds to make sure your donations have the most impact possible. In 2012, only 1% of WMI's funding was spent on overhead, with all the rest going directly into the loan program. We're making the most of your donations by making sure they truly go to the people we're trying to help.

WMI provides loans, not subsidies, so there is income generated when women pay back the interest on their loans. We're using that capital to expand our health and education programs in our loan hubs. WMI's Borrowers have attended lectures by health and education officials to learn practical health tips and advice on educating themselves and their children. One of the government officials who visited the Bududa loan hub was so impressed by the Borrowers that he promised to get funding for development projects in their village.

Donations from individuals like you mean the world to WMI's Borrowers. If you want to get more involved in WMI's activities, consider becoming a Resource Fellow. The Resource Fellow spends 6-12 months at our original loan hub in Buyobo, Uganda working on the operation of our loan program there. Please visit our website for more information on the fellowship and more data on our Borrowers: www.wmionline.org. And don't forget to like Women's Microfinance Initiative on Facebook and follow @wmionline on Twitter!

Oct 15, 2012

July/August 2012 Update

This has been an exciting summer for WMI as we continued to expand our loan program to help more poor, rural women in East Africa. Here's what we've been up to:

This summer, a group of college interns analyzed data from Borrowers at each of WMI's loan hubs throughout Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. They found that 96% of borrowers who enter the loan program are living on less than $2 a day - the UN definition of living in poverty. That has not changed in the 4 years since WMI launched the loan program. There is no general improvement in the baseline poverty level of the rural women who seek out WMI loans.

But there are immediate and sustained economic improvements for WMI borrowers:

Within 6 months their incomes increase by an average of 66%. Within 12 months, nearly 75% of borrowers are earning over $6.50/day, with 35% earning over $10/day. By 24 months 51% of borrowers are earning over $13/day with 25% earning over $21/day. The women's increased earnings translate into significant improvements in household living standards. Check out the complete factbooks online at http://wmionline.org/dataanalysis/profile/profile.html.

This summer also marked the third year of WMI's high school intern program. The group of students traveled to the WMI loan hub in Buyobo, Uganda and taught at the local elementary school, created a teacher's garden and joined the women in carrying our simple business tasks like harvesting vegetables and sorting beans. The interns returned in early July and Della Turque-Henneberger wrote an article about her experience for the Washington Post Blog: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/a-16-year-olds-worthwhile-summer/2012/09/03/9262e0d6-f5cf-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_blog.html?wprss=rss_education

WMI gained a new board member this summer, experienced microfinance executive Archie Mears. Archie is the former Managing Director of Opportunity International Uganda, a regulated microfinance institution serving small and medium enterprise clients with loan, savings and money transfer services. He is a life-long banker specializing in African operations. He spent 28 years with ANC Grindlays Bank and also held executive positions at Stanbic Zambia and Urwego Opportunity Bank of Rwanda.

Finally, former WMI intern Tobin Jones recently won the Echo Foundation's prestigious student international photojournalism competition for original photography responding to the question, "What does democracy or tyranny; justice or injustice look like?" See some of Tobin's photos of the women and family members of WMI attached.

Links:

Sep 11, 2012

Solar Power Installed in Buyobo Village School

Tali and Lila teaching their class
Tali and Lila teaching their class

This summer's 11 Whitman High School (Bethesda, MD) student interns came to Buyobo in late June to continue work on the new school classrooms and to oversee the installation of solar power in the building.  The power was supplied by Barefoot Power, a social enterprise that focuses on providing affordable lighting to populations without access to electricity.  Barefoot Power came to the village and made a presentation on their solar lighting product and installation plan.  The village was excited to watch the installation, which was funded by generous donations though Global Giving and by the Women's Microfinance Initiative.  Solar lighting allows the building to be lit at night enabling teachers and parents to tutor their children after dinner.  While they were in the village, the student summer interns prepped their new friends for the national examinations.  The system is working perfectly and students, parents and teachers are all inspired by the new lighting system. 

In addition to the tutoring, the interns renovated other school buildings, helped the WMI borrowers learn to use computers, led a Grassroots Soccer program and learned about village life.  Noah Martin, one of the interns, summed up the trip as follows: The whole trip has been an amazing experience. The most important experience to me was the fact that no matter what we do we are creating jobs. Its amazing that the simple task of painting a wall or building a gate gives so many people the ability to work and it brings in so many people to help to get it done. This trip was largely seen as a life experience for me. While we are only here for a couple of weeks we are truly able to see a completely different lifestyle and that is a completely priceless experience.

Tali Stopak-Mathis, one of the trip chaperones, added:  "The Whitman students have been awesome- integrating themselves into the life of the community and school, embracing the life here and bringing lots of fun in everything they do!"

Thanks to everyone who supported the solar lighting project!

Teaching at Buyobo Primary School
Teaching at Buyobo Primary School

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