This January, the Women's Microfinance Initiative celebrate its five-year anniversary. Since our humble start in 2008, we've given over 8,000 loans to poor women in rural East Africa. The women are using these loans to start and grow small businesses so that they can support themselves, send their children to school, and gain standing in the community.
Our local director in Uganda, Olive Wolimbwa, discusses WMI's progress over the last five years in this video. Olive notes that borrowers are purchasing land and building houses, using formal banking services, enjoying more peaceful households, and learning business skills from WMI trainers.
A few months ago, WMI launched a new loan hub - a village where we partner with a community based organization to start a loan program - in Ngarendare, Kenya. Read the inspiring story of a woman who grew up there in our spring newsletter.
In April, WMI helds its first countrywide conference in Mbale, Uganda. Leaders from each of our Ugandan loan hubs attended to share ideas and best practices. They also participated in panels led by microfinance experts.
As WMI grows, we need your support more than ever to ensure that we are doing our best in every community we work with.
This winter, WMI President Robyn Nietert traveled to our primary loan hub in Buyobo, Uganda, and to several other loan hubs. She attended graduation ceremonies, in which WMI borrowers who have been in the program for two years celebrate their transition to formal banking with PostBank Uganda.
At the graduation ceremonies, community members testified to WMI's impact on the community beyond the lives of the borrowers. At the primary school in Buyobo, where many of the borrowers' children are educated and which WMI has been working to improve, students had their highest test scores ever in 2012. Some of the children of our borrowers wrote very sweet letters thanking WMI for our assistance to their parents and communities. A new healthcare clinic has relocated closer to Buyobo, and borrowers report taking advantage of its services.
Because of these and many other successes, WMI has been expanding. We added four new loan hubs in 2012 and will add two more in April 2013. In addition, some existing loan hubs have taken on sub-hubs: smaller organizations that report to the larger loan hub. This expansion allows us to increase our impact throughout East Africa and to help more women become independent, self-reliant and empowered.
WMI was one of several GlobalGiving projects featured in a promotion by the Hewlett Foundation to honor the Foundation's board chair who was stepping down after years of service, culminating in a very general donation of over $8,700 to our micro-finance project. It was a very special surprise and the Board has designated the grant towards funding the three new hubs we are launching in April. A very big and very heartfelt thank you to HP for its wonderful support!
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!
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.
The Women's Microfinance Initiative is continuing to expand its outreach to impoverished rural women in East Africa with loan, business skills training and support to get women started with income producing small enterprises. WMI's new video: Small Loan, Big Change gives the women in the loan program a chance to tell their story and thank all those donors around the world who have supported them. Take a few minutes to see how your wonderful support is helping WMI deliver a triple bottom line to combat povertyin sub-Saharan Africa:
1. The loan program gets capital into the hands of impoverished women so that they can start businesses and it provides them with the training that they need to help make those businesses a success.
2. It builds the human capacity of the women-focused, Community Based Organizations (CBO) that WMI partners with to operate the loan programs at the village level. These CBOs evolve into a resource for the entire community and can help families access the goods and services they want and need to improve their household living standards.
3. The WMI loan program is bringing about structural change in the way banks deal with poor, rural women.
In essence, WMI has engineered itself into the financial service value chain on the ground - networking village-level CBOs and local banks in a new configuration that had not been considered - and one that has resulted in benefits to its partners, its borrowers, and the greater community. It is a simple and flexible operating model that delivers a large and multi-faceted impact. Thank you so much for your ongoing generosity in supporting the WMI loan program.
Click here or past the link into your browser to view the newest video on WMI's You Tube page:
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