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