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.
Feb 12, 2016

Please Give Hope to Nabbosa

Biyinzika
Biyinzika

Happy New Year! WMI has started the year with a bang: our newest microfinance loan hub just opened its doors in the Mukono region of central Uganda in partnership with Suubi Community Projects.  Suubi is a Luganda word meaning Hope.

Let us tell you something about this region and why Hope is so important: Mukono has 9 villages and was severely affected by the 1981-86 Uganda civil war.  War contributed to the increasing poverty in the area since so many people who were involved in agricultural activities were displaced and many killed. The war weakened the social-economic structures in the community, caused moral degradation, and increased HIV/AIDS prevalence, and thus widows and orphans increased in number.  Almost all households fail to meet their basic needs because of low incomes.  There is almost no access to quality basic needs  -- service providers such as schools and a health center are miles away from this community. 

On the 8th January 2016, Suubi gave its first loans to 40 women.  36 were already into business and took loans to expand their businesses; 4 started new businesses. The women are engaged in food stuff stalls, retail shops, charcoal stalls, night shift hotels, and fish selling.  The president is happy to report that she has been able to visit and evaluate each of the businesses since the loans were issued, and reports evidence of new stock and increased activity.

The pictures are of Nabbosa and her business. She is our profile borrower this month.  Nabbosa is 43 years old, and has been a widow for 13 years. She has 4 children: 2 girls and 2 boys aged 17 to 24.  All are attending day secondary school.

She runs a restaurant called Biyinzika, and it is the only source of income for her and her children. Her restaurant serves breakfast and lunch to about 50 customers every day. She employs one woman and her children also help at the restaurant when they are not at school.

She always wished she could get more capital to buy new equipment like pans, plates, cups and tables. However, this was not possible because her profits were only enough to pay rent and school fees for her children.  With the loan taken from SWMI, she has been able to buy these items and she expects this to increase the number of her daily customers.

Won’t you help women like Nabbosa by contributing to our loan fund?  As we reflect on our prior 8 years, we are gratified to see that our brand of international aid – allowing local determination to guide our resources – is having huge results. Your generous donations have made the WMI loan program a possibility and the hard work of the ladies operating our 15 loan hubs, turned that possibility into a reality - a successful, self-sustaining resource that will benefit generations of rural women. Thank you so much for your loyal and ongoing support! 

Nabbosa Serving a Customer
Nabbosa Serving a Customer
Nov 25, 2015

The WMI Sewing Circle?

WMI Borrowers Learn to Embroider
WMI Borrowers Learn to Embroider

Greetings from Buyobo Uganda!

One thing we often remark on is the industriousness of our borrowers.  Not only are the women primary caregivers for their children, they are also responsible for the home vegetable plot, providing daily meals cooked over a charcoal or solar stove, and running their businesses.  Most women operate several businesses to take advantage of seasons and markets.  They may not be driving their kids to soccer practice, but never underestimate the multi-tasking skills these women employ just to get through each day.

Always looking for a new skill to parlay into a business opportunity, a group of our borrowers have also taken up embroidery. This October marked the beginning of a new Craft Class for borrowers in WMI’s Buyobo hub. With the expertise of two WMI staff members, borrowers are learning to embroider and knit various crafts. They are currently creating tablecloths and placemats made of yarn and cotton. The women meet every Monday and Friday from 4 – 6:30 p.m. to sharpen their skills and create beautiful décor to take to market. After each lesson they take their projects home to continue their work.

In keeping with our philosophy of valuing more highly that which you pay for, the class worked together to raise 750,000 shillings (about $200, which was matched by WMI) to purchase sewing needles, embroidery hoops, and fabric.  To put this in context, our business loans are in the 300,000-500,000 shilling range, so any contribution from their savings was quite an investment for the women.  In addition to taking their crafts to market, the class also intends to display their finished products during graduation in January for visitors to purchase.  Although our women don’t generally focus on the export or tourist markets, it will be interesting to see if they discover new opportunities to sell their goods.

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  As you gather with your families this holiday season and count your many blessings, we ask that you remember the women of our loan program who work so very hard each day just to make ends meet.  By supporting WMI, your generous gifts help us to put into place the loan funds and systems that help to create the opportunities for our borrowers to succeed.  WMI loans are not a hand-out.  Each loan is paid back with interest, and interest earnings support all program operations and community projects.  Thank you!

Sep 1, 2015

You Really Did Make a Difference!

Lydia Graduates from University
Lydia Graduates from University

With your generous donations we started the WMI loan program eight years ago with twenty loans. This summer we issued our twenty thousandth loan. Total lending is now over $3million. The numbers may sound small by U.S. banking standards, but they are certainly impressive when you realize our average loan is only $150. It’s even more impressive when you learn our average borrower has been earning less than $130 a month when she joins our program. For her, a $150 loan is not a micro-loan; it’s huge! So, why would she borrow so much money? The answer is simple: working capital is the key to increasing business profits, which increases household income and living standards.

We collect borrower information on every loan we make, and every summer our interns analyze the data and prepare Fact Books to show the loan program’s impact on improving household living conditions and empowering women to become financially independent.

We look very carefully at the data for trends. We continue to see a rapid change in a borrower’s average income once they enter our loan program. Whereas 99.7% of all borrowers earned less than $1,560 per year when they entered the program, that figure drops to less than 3.7% in just two years. Our average borrower more than doubles her earnings in the two years she is in our program.

The loan enables her to kick-start an existing or new business. Most businesses are agricultural or provide necessities of daily living, such as other foodstuffs, tailoring, used clothing, and medicine, and are local in market scope. As her profits grow, she can expand the business, add to savings, which greatly reduces the negative impact of emergencies or unforeseen expenses, and improve household living standard. In Uganda, where education is a top priority, 75% of the women surveyed said they spent their profits on school fees as an investment in their children’s future.

Most exciting is that we are seeing generational change. We tasked our Buyobo, Uganda summer interns with interviewing the children of borrowers, several of whom have now completed their university educations, to get their impressions. It’s amazing how each one chose to talk about the impact the WMI loan program has had on their mother, their community, and, especially, their own opportunities. East Africa isn’t a place where you are given a job – it’s a place where you take the skills you have and make your own job. Watch the video and you will feel really confident that these kids will succeed at whatever they do!

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