Dec 18, 2017

Counting our Many Blessings

Alice washing a client's hair
Alice washing a client's hair

A special message to our many generous donors:

As we reflect back on the first ten years of our work, we are reminded of our many blessings.  From our initial 20-loan issuance in January 2008, Women’s Microfinance Initiative has grown to an organization serving 13 locations across Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.  Due to your generous contributions and on-going support we have raised over $1.7 million – primarily in small donations by individuals.  We have begun to see a major transformation of economic circumstances in our villages.  Women who struggled to put food on the table and educate their children are now running prosperous local businesses. 

Although many challenges remain, increased income and savings have meant fewer illnesses, healthier meals, and children able to go to college (un-thought of just a few years ago).  Even more important to us is seeing first-hand the new found confidence and self-worth our women demonstrate day in and day out.  More than 12,000 women have now completed our business training programs and taken loans through WMI.  The $5 million we have lent has increased our borrowers’ income by over 400% annually.  And our fully-capitalized loan fund ensures that we can operate in perpetuity.  All of our programs operate on a self-sustaining basis and profits and spent on community projects.  WMI's low administrative costs mean 98% of your donations go directly to the loan fund or to special projects like infrastructure development. To all of you, WMI and our borrowers send a huge THANK YOU!!

We want to leave you with this thought from one of our borrowers, 29 year-old Alice from Bugusege village in north-east Uganda.  Alice is a hairdresser who used her loan to purchase new hair treatments, styling equipment, including a standing hairdryer, and hair braids.  Long term, Alice dreams of opening a vocational school to train other women to be successful salon owners.  For now, Alice is focused on continuing to provide for her family, growing her savings – a skill she’s learned through the WMI program, and watching her children and community flourish.

Of the impact the loan program has had on the women of the village, Alice had the following to say, “You see that the women are dressing smart and taking care of themselves. Before everyone would say that women belong in the kitchen, but things are changing. If you go to the market, women run most of the businesses. The women in the community are ever busy.”

Wishing all of you a happy holiday season and a joyous New Year!

The Board of Directors

Women’s Microfinance Initiative


Borrower biography written by 2017 summer intern Vince Dewar, now a junior at Florida State University majoring in International Affairs.

Alice and her children
Alice and her children
Sep 27, 2017

A (True) Fish Tale

Mary at her Shop
Mary at her Shop

As Women’s Microfinance Initiative celebrates its tenth anniversary at the end of the year we are looking back at what we have been able to accomplish in this short time period.  We have built 14 totally self-sustaining microfinance loan programs across East Africa, owned and operated by women, which have vastly changed the lives of the people in their community.  One such borrower is Mary N.

Always smiling, Mary currently lives in a small village in Sonoli Park, Uganda.  She is married with two children, a boy and a girl. Mary operates a fish and meat business – celebrating its 12th year in 2017.

To supply her business, she travels by public bus for four hours to the distant waterside market in Jinja.  She returns with salted fish to sell for a profit in her local community.  She wishes there were a stronger transportation system in Uganda as the dilapidated condition of the roads, especially the dirt roads that lead to her village, can make this journey impossible during the rainy season.  To reduce her risk, Mary has diversified: she also purchases raw beef in bulk from local farmers, which she then cooks and sells for consumption.  Although her business can face intense competition, she has learned to adapt quickly by adjusting prices as necessary to maintain her business.

Mary received the first of her four loans from Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI) in 2008, which she used to fund a greater stock of beef and fish. Prior to the loan, Mary’s business profits were not high enough to cover the basic needs of her family. According to her, they were always struggling financially.  Since her involvement with the WMI loan program, Mary reports that her income has greatly improved and as a result her family is now quite comfortable. 

Her loans have allowed Mary to produce and sell a great volume of her product. She attributes the growth in her customer base to the marketing skills she learned through WMI’s training. In addition, Mary has become an expert budgeter, saving up enough money to send both of her children to school, pay for frequent medical check-ups, and even build and furnish a new permanent home on her own.        

In addition to the loan program, Mary has taken advantage of WMI’s cancer screenings and adult literacy programs. She has noticed that since WMI entered the community, women have become more and more involved in the local economy and many have become financially independent. Personally, she is proud to note that she is no longer financially reliant on her husband. This economic stability has resulted in women in her community, including herself, being healthier and more educated.

In the future, she sees her business continuing to grow in size and profit. Her dream is to eventually make enough to invest in cattle so she can act as her own supplier of beef. Mary wishes to thank WMI for, “bringing this great program to rural women and giving her an opportunity to share her story with others.”

Will you help Mary and women like her with a generous donation to the WMI Loan Program?  All profits from the loan program are either added back into the loan pool or invested in the community, at the discretion of the local women running the program.  Thank you for your support!

Mary Sorting Salted Fish
Mary Sorting Salted Fish
Jul 3, 2017

What do DVDs and Mobile Money have in Common?

Robinah in her DVD Store
Robinah in her DVD Store

As the Women’s Microfinance Initiative reaches its tenth year milestone, we’ve spent time looking back and reflecting on our progress meeting our goals.  Simply stated, our mission is to establish village-level loan hubs, administered by local women, to provide capital, training and support services to rural women in the lowest income brackets in East Africa so that they can engage in income producing activities. But what does that mean beyond the numbers -- 12,000 borrowers and $4.5 million in loans?  WMI’s success, we believe, is due to our patient approach to development, helping our borrowers develop the skills they need to take businesses to the next level, providing consistent and reliable financial services, and assisting with the ancillary issues that impede success in marginalized communities.

When we first started working in rural Buyobo in Eastern Uganda, we encountered a village without electricity, with contaminated drinking water and lacking basic sanitary facilities, where rural agricultural life was lived as it had been for centuries.  Today, we find bustling villages, brick houses have replaced mud huts, solar power provides electricity, computers have replaced paper records, students are going to university, and health crises have been reduced.  By focusing our efforts on a village-wide basis, we have been able to amplify the small changes each woman has made in her economic status.  The results are amazing.

Here are two stories of village women who have changed their lives as a result of the WMI loan program:


Take a five-hour drive northeast from Kampala and you will find yourself in rural Bududa District where Robinah runs a thriving DVD/CD business, which she started with a loan from WMI. Robinah scours local markets for popular movies and music, inspecting each disc carefully to make sure they meet her quality control standards. She has run this business for over 2 years and has developed a strong customer base. 

Robinah says her profits from the business have done a lot for the family.  She has been able to buy a cow, whereby she not only gets milk for her family, but is able to sell the excess to her neighbors.  Her children attend school regularly and she pays the fees out of her business profits.  Robinah's husband is an active partner in the business - together they make business decisions and share household duties that would typically be borne solely by the mother.  Robinah says that the whole family is moving on happily and in good health.


A young entrepreneur, at just 23 years old Lydia founded a mobile money business. Now, three years later, she employs three other young people in her growing mobile money franchise, which grosses nearly $700 per month!  Lydia splits most of her days between managing operations and pursuing new business ventures.

As many people know, there are few jobs available to young adults in developing countries.  Giving young women the opportunity to acquire business loans and training is a way to combat the pernicious problem of the feminization of poverty that is pervasive in developing countries.

As the businesses run by WMI borrowers continue to grow, so do the capital needs of our experienced businesswomen.  This year WMI has introduced a streamlined Jumbo Loan Program to keep up with this growing demand for larger loans. Based on the strength of her business and her stellar repayment history for her four previous loans, Lydia is now a borrower in this specialized lending program reserved for the best of our program graduates.  Under the programs guidelines, Lydia is now able to borrow up to $900 to meet her working capital needs.  We are eager to watch her business continue to grow and expand.

Thank you for your loyal and ongoing support of WMI’s Loan Program.  WMI does not work alone.  All of these accomplishments are a team effort, and we would like to express our profound gratitude to everyone who helps make the WMI loan program a success!

Lydia Works on Paperwork
Lydia Works on Paperwork
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