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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
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
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
 

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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
$251,974 raised of $275,000 goal
 
2,604 donations
$23,026 to go
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