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1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa

by Women's Microfinance Initiative
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa
1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa

Every day is Take your Child to Work Day in rural East Africa.  Multi-tasking is the way of life.  Our borrowers juggle their child care responsibilities with tending the garden which supplies most of the family’s food, caring for the house, and running their businesses.  Their businesses become family affairs, with the husband or the children assisting in the various aspects.  Put your baby on your back and get to work!

Take Rebecca, for example.

Rebecca is an involved member of her church congregation, wife and mother of six. She was born, raised and currently lives in her home village of Kaama, Uganda with her husband and children.  Rebecca has had her own tailoring business for 14 years.  She came into the WMI program an experienced, knowledgeable tailor, but saw WMI’s loan program as a way to learn the skills necessary to be a successful businesswoman.

As soon as she received her first loan, Rebecca began buying additional materials; fabrics to create new clothes, as well as linings and threads to repair and alter clothes her customers bring to her. Already, Rebecca says that the purchases made with her WMI loan have given her the ability to cater to the needs of a wider variety of customers.

In addition to increasing the variety of customers she is able to serve, Rebecca’s loan has also allowed her to increase her outputs. With the influx of new materials, Rebecca has been able to delegate tasks to her oldest daughter, who is currently training to become a tailor herself. On the days Rebecca is working in the Bugusege market, her daughter is now able to work from their home in Kaama village, meaning that the women can be working with customers from a greater number of villages.

Rebecca’s training has also meant that she is now creating detailed, long-term budgets and savings for her and her family. She is currently able to pay for her children’s school fees, and by putting money away each month she is putting herself in a position to continue to pay fees for the entirety of their schooling. Her savings have also helped ensure her family’s ability to deal with unexpected costs and medical treatments. This greater financial know-how has positively impacted Rebecca’s marriage. She is now able to buy goods for herself, her children and her home without have to gain permission from her husband.

Looking forward, Rebecca hopes that her business will expand even further in the coming year. She believes that further expansion is possible because of her access to capital as well as her increased profits, which are a direct result of her purchasing more inputs. Ultimately, Rebecca’s dream is to use her abilities as a tailor and a businesswoman to establish a clothing shop where she will be able to store, advertise and sell all of her own creations.

Thanks to all the WMI donors who share our vision to combat poverty through empowering women.  We plan to help many more women just like Rebecca by giving them the skills they need to support their families.  Won’t you help us today?

Rebecca at her Tailoring Shop
Rebecca at her Tailoring Shop
Sarah at Work
Sarah at Work

Today, July 18, is a special Global Giving Bonus Day!  Your donation to the WMI loan program will receive a 50% matching as long as funds are available. The $120,000 matching fund will go quickly, but new recurring donations will receive a 100% match the entire day. A donation of just $10 a month will fund a loan for one of our borrowers like Sarah, whose story we share below.

Sarah was born and raised in Buganda in Central Uganda but moved to Kaama, a village close to our Buyobo headquarters in Eastern Uganda.  She came to Kaama with her parents in her early adult years when they decided to return to their homeland.  Since moving back, Sarah has set up her life with her three children, runs her farm where she grows and harvests beans to sell, is actively involved in her community church as a chorister, and operates her clothing business.

Sarah is one of our new borrowers, currently in her first loan cycle.  Sarah’s business involves taking a day-long journey by bus to the capital city of Kampala to buy clothes.  She then carries them back to sell at the Bugusege market near her home.  For the seven years prior to joining WMI’s loan program, she had only enough capital to buy a few clothes at a time to sell.  Since joining the WMI loan program, Sarah has used her loans to buy in bulk, which has greatly reduced her costs, and thus increased her profits, as she is now in a better position to bargain for a lower price when buying in Kampala.

Like any growing business, Sarah faces some challenges. Her greatest challenge presently is her location. She does not have a shop yet, meaning that, first of all, she is limited in the amount of clothes that she can have in stock, and secondly, she must sell under the hot Ugandan sun. Nevertheless, she is currently applying her new skills from WMI’s training program to save up for a shop. She looks forward to having her shop a year from now and hopes that will increase her number of customers.

Another one of Sarah’s challenges from her growing business is that buying in bulk increases the chances of buying clothes that are of a lower quality than she is known to sell.  When this happens, she uses her negotiation skills and good customer relations skills to successfully sell off the lower quality clothes so that she can afford to restock her inventory with better quality ones.

In addition to using her newly acquired skills to address her challenges and expand her business, Sarah has been applying her skills to manage her home as well.  Particularly, lessons in saving, record-keeping and general business management have better equipped her to manage her home of three children, and to look after her aging parents.

Sarah feels very grateful for the WMI loan program.  She is glad for the communal support from her loan group members and guidance from the WMI training support staff in helping her further expand her business.  She thinks it makes her a better woman and an inspiration to her daughters. She greatly appreciates all the support WMI offers women and hopes that they go on to help others like her. 

Thanks to all the WMI donors who share our vision to combat poverty through empowering women and giving them the skills they need to support their families we plan to help many more women just like Sarah.  Won’t you help us today?

Sarah in the Market
Sarah in the Market
Naidimi Loan Group
Naidimi Loan Group

Back in 2012, WMI began working with Rachel Blackmore, director of Weston Turville Wells for Tanzania, to add a microfinance program to their clean water and food security programs.  We’ve enjoyed the partnership and the loan program there has been very successful due to the strength of the local staff.  Recently, Rachel shared a story with us that we thought you would enjoy! 

Rachel writes, On our way back from reviewing one of the remote villages we work in, our local coordinator, Ponja, mentioned that we had no spare tire. He mentioned it because he could hear a hissing. He’d lent the spare to someone else in need the week before and had not had a chance to replace it and had never had a puncture before.

I asked if we should call a garage in the nearest town (three hour’s drive away) to bring us a spare.

‘There is no phone network’

‘How far to the nearest network signal?’

’20 kms’

‘So what shall we do?’

‘We will drive on it’

Fortunately we hadn’t bumped along far when we saw a Belgian couple that I’d chatted to earlier at a viewpoint. I’d been surprised to see Europeans driving in the area.

They kindly lent us their spare and we followed each other back. They told us they had bought fuel from a Maasai woman, which surprised them, as they expected to pay a man. When they offered the money to her husband he laughed and pointed to his wife as the person to pay. They asked if it meant that women were in control here? I said only when they have a loan and their own business.

I later learned from our staff that this woman is called Naihiki and she had a WTWT/WMI loan and has a business selling fuel to rangers and tourists. Our staff buys from her, too, and explained that she is one of two wives who were struggling to feed their children because their husband drinks. Since giving her a loan and supporting her in starting her successful fuel business things have got a lot better for the family.

Coincidentally, when we got back, we met Naihiki coming to grind her maize at the grinding machine. It was lovely to meet her with her daughter. She explained that she buys fuel in the town, brings it up by bus and then carries the cans on her donkey to the road for her customers.

Rachel reports that she attended several loan group meetings on her winter visit.  The women were enthusiastic about the success of their businesses and said many more people in the community are requesting loans.  Rachel told us they asked to us to fund more.  Each of the loan groups gives itself a name.  Sometimes they use colors or names of birds or fruit.  The picture above shows some of the women in the loan group they named Naidimi.  It means Able in English.

WMI has agreed to provide more funding in 2018.  Won’t you help?  We want to continue to provide business loans to all of the Naidimi women of east Africa.  You never know when an entrepreneurial woman will be standing by the road ready to sell you some fuel when you are low!

Naihiki and her Daughter
Naihiki and her Daughter

A 2 year vetran of the WMI loan program, Stella lives in rural Ntrimiti, Kenya.  Her loans provided the capital to intensively farm 2 acres of land that yield three crops each of carrots, onions and cabbages annually. She uses organic local manure to fertilize, a for-hire-tractor to plow, and her mobile phone to check with dealers to get the best prices. She demands that the dealers harvest the crops so she can keep her overhead low and she also collects seeds to use for the next planting.

By managing her business carefully, Stellah has managed to save enough to build a new home with glass windows and a tile roof. This is the power of rural microfinance operating at the bottom of the economic pyramid. It empowers village women to lead the lives they want to lead.

Alice washing a client
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
 

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Organization Information

Women's Microfinance Initiative

Location: Bethesda, MD - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @wmionline
Project Leader:
Robyn Nietert
President
Bethesda, Maryland United States
$254,735 raised of $275,000 goal
 
2,657 donations
$20,265 to go
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