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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
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
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:

Robinah

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.

Lydia

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
Lydia
Lydia

As Spring awakens our spirits and vigor, we thought we would show off some of the beautiful faces of the hard-working businesswomen in the WMI loan program.

  • Sylvia is a 65 year-old tailor who has used her profits to buy farm land and 2 small store front shops that she rents out – she is planning for her retirement!
  • At 47, Lydia has a booming business buying and reselling charcoal. She has managed to build a permanent house and is paying University tuition for her 2 older children, as well as senior school fees for her 2 younger children.
  • Rose makes and sells mandazi (delicious doughnuts) at schools and in the market. She is currently building a permanent house and has just ordered another load of bricks for it.

As a result of the WMI loan and business training program, these ladies are making between $1,000 – $3,000/year, which is terrific income in a country where school teachers start at $75/month and bank clerks at $200/month! Give a rural African woman a loan with training and she will turn it into a profitable business woman a loan with training and she will turn it into a profitable business!

Over the years, WMI's grassroots approach to providing business skills training and loans has become increasingly important because jobs in the formal economy in East Africa are few and far between.  Women and their families are more dependent than ever on creating small enterprises to generate income to meet household needs. 

In Uganda, colleges and universities routinely graduate 400,000 young adults annually into an economy generating fewer than 100,000 new jobs each year.  In Kenya, estimates are that it takes 5 years for a university graduate to obtain a job.  In Tanzania, the graduates who do obtain formal employment rarely do so before the age of 30. The end result is that the vast majority of people still remain employed in the informal sector, with the primary focus on agricultural production. 

Traditionally, educated young adults have been reluctant to return to the rural, subsistence farming life-style of their parents. Fortunately, that's one area where WMI is making a critical difference.  With a loan and training, women are able to launch and expand businesses that transcend subsistence farming and move on to value-added products, providing essential goods/services to larger businesses.

These businesses can become family enterprises with different family members providing input to help the business grow and prosper, impacting the long-term economic structure of the area.

WMI does not work alone. All of these accomplishments are a team effort.  We would like to express our profound gratitude to everyone who helps make the WMI loan program a success, and 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. 

Thank you so much for your loyal and ongoing support! 

Sylvia
Sylvia
Rose
Rose
Mom and her Piglets
Mom and her Piglets

Here at Women’s Microfinance Initiative we are always looking at the various ways we can help to improve the villages in which we work, involving the community, and bringing leadership and financial literacy skills to additional folks. Girls’ Group is a community outreach activity which offers an opportunity for school-aged girls in grades 5, 6, and 7 to come together outside of class to learn health education and entrepreneurship skills. The goal is to prepare these young women for healthy, productive futures and to instill in them the entrepreneurial skills that WMI values.

Uganda is ranked as the most entrepreneurial country in the world: 28% of Ugandan adults own or co-own a business. That means our girls’ group graduates will have stiff competition after they complete school to develop successful, sustainable businesses. We hope that offering opportunities early on for girls to learn basic business skills, including budgeting and making a business plan, will give them a strong leg up as the enter the workforce.

The Girls’ Group is gaining first-hand business experience by caring for three pigs – two females and one male. Piggery is a common income-generating activity in Uganda, and the girls have been very eager to learn how to care for the pigs.  Recently, both female pigs delivered babies! The girls are now caring for both mothers as well as their combined 15 piglets. This offers a great first-hand opportunity for the girls to operate a business by planning for upkeep costs, marketing and sales of the piglets and managing the group’s income. We are very excited!

The HIV epidemic in Uganda, and all over Sub-Saharan Africa, affects young women in disproportionate percentages to their male peers. Girls’ Group offers an opportunity to teach HIV education in a safe, single-gender environment that promotes active learning. We teach about how HIV is transmitted, the risk factors for HIV and how a girl can prevent infection. The group focuses both on biological and sociological factors that lead to HIV transmission.

So far, we are proud to have graduated dozens of girls from this program over the past two years. We are very excited for their success in their secondary educations and in their careers to come. 

We hope you will be excited about bringing more pigs to market and support WMI!

Girls Group Graduation
Girls Group Graduation
Tecla and her Brick Factory
Tecla and her Brick Factory

Mud, a little ingenuity, some perseverance, and a small loan from WMI are the four ingredients Tecla needed to make her thriving business.  After two years in the loan program, borrowers like Tecla in Tloma village, Tanzania are diversifying and expanding their businesses to improve their earning potential and household living standards.

Tloma lies close to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, where women trace their ancestry back to the Iraqw tribe that inhabits this region. While the Iraqw have their own traditional language, many in Tloma have adopted Tanzania's national language and speak Kiswahili, reflecting the relatively progressive nature of the Tloma community. Because the village is less isolated, the community is more integrated with the country's overall development (compared to more traditional tribes like the Maasai); nevertheless, most families are extremely poor, living on an average household income of less than 50 cents per day.

Typical families engage in subsistence agriculture (maize, beans and soy beans) and raise livestock for home consumption and sale. Tloma's economy is active, which means the women in WMI's program have some experience buying/selling of goods. Their problem was access to capital to expand their businesses. With spirit and determination the ladies welcomed the WMI loan program as their opportunity to change their lives.

So where does the mud come in?  Tecla used her first loan to open a shop in Karatu town, near the village. She trained her sons to help her early on, and that proved to be an important decision when she started another business and was able to leave day-to-day shop operations in her children’s hands.

Once Tecla had made some money from the shop, she was excited to start expanding her house. She started making bricks in her backyard for the construction, and it occurred to her that she had enough natural resources there to make extra bricks and sell them. Now she focuses on the brick business – she sells 10,000 bricks every dry season – while her children serve customers at her shop.

Most homes in the village are made of mud, cow dung, and sticks, but Tecla now lives in a brick house built with her business profits.  Seeing her house, Tecla's neighbors are buying her bricks to build their own houses, which they can now afford because of the loan program!

Tecla is the perfect example of how a small loan and some training, combined with ingenuity and perseverance, levels the economic playing field for so many women.  It doesn’t always take millions of dollars and an army of international aid workers to make significant and long lasting progress in improving the lives of disadvantaged women in East Africa. WMI capitalizes on your donations by directing its resources to a permanent loan pool. 

When Tecla repays her loan there is another woman ready to take a loan and start on the path to economic success.  Her business will mean improvements to her family’s health, nutrition, and education – the three essential factors to sustained change.  Won't you help more women like Tecla realize their dreams?

 

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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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