1,000 Microloans for Rural Women in East Africa

by Women's Microfinance Initiative
Vetted
Kamida at her Restaurant
Kamida at her Restaurant

Kamida lives in a rural village in Northeast Uganda called Buyobo.  She was born in the village and is the proud mother of four children - two teen-agers and two at University.  Ten years ago the thought that she might be able to send her children to university would have never entered her mind.  In 2008 Kamida became one of the pioneer borrowers in the newly launched Women’s Microfinance Initiative lending and training program.  Before becoming a borrower, Kamida was running a restaurant in a very small rented space in a building along the main road.  She also sold fresh produce, beans and maize during their respective seasons to help ends meet.  She made around $30 a month.

Since joining WMI, Kamida has used her successive loans to buy land for her own restaurant building. She now operates a larger restaurant out of a building she owns and has a monthly profit of around $125. With her increased income, she is able to easily pay her children’s school fees. Because of the loan program, Kamida no longer needs to pay rent and can use the extra money to expand her restaurant business.

Kamida has an astute sense of the demand for her business and adjusts the amount of food she prepares accordingly to save costs. She understands that during the school holidays, many of the students go back to their respective villages, which reduces the amount of restaurant customers, and she in turn reduces the amount of food she prepares to keep her business running smoothly. At her restaurant, Kamida employs two workers to help serve her customers and prepare and cook food.

Through the training WMI provides, Kamida learned about best business practices and how to save and budget.  She saves about $60 per month which has resulted in many improvements for her home. Aside from being able to fully pay her children’s school fees, she is also able to provide better medical services and treatment for her children. Additionally, Kamida has bought a dairy cow which has become another source of income. Kamida also keeps her books daily. In the morning she records the ingredients and supplies she has purchased; in the evening she balances her books and calculates profits.

In order to continue business expansion, Kamida is a member of a WMI Jumbo Loan Group ($500 loan). Kamida believes that her business will expand in the coming years through the continuing help of the WMI Jumbo Loan program. She is hoping that she will soon be able to open up a retail shop with her savings. Won’t you help her succeed? Please support Kamida and the other women of WMI!

A new borrower holds her 200,000 shilling loan
A new borrower holds her 200,000 shilling loan

When the WMI team arrived in Buger village, Tanzania on loan day the borrowers there were already standing and singing to greet us. They sang “mkopo ni mpangalio,” which translates loosely to “the loan is arranged.”  It’s a song written by loan program members that expresses the borrowers’ excitement to receive their loans. Having heard the song before at our seminar for the group chairwomen, we jumped right in and sang along.

We started with loans for a new group that is starting this cycle. These borrowers had spent the previous week preparing. They attended a GWOCO/WMI seminar with Esther, the loan program educator, and learned about small business dos and don’ts. Then they wrote their loan applications and business plans with the help of Eliminatha, the GWOCO Secretary. 

The staff read the business plans before agreeing to give out loans to the new borrowers. We were very impressed: one woman who will be buying and selling chickens thought to put down medicine for her livestock as an expense. This kind of active planning will enable her to foresee potential costs and prepare to meet them. It will also make it easy for her to pay off her loan!

 The continuing borrowers in the program were excited to move on from their 300,000 shilling loan to 400,000 shillings (an increase of about $50). In their follow-up applications, they gave various ideas for the use of the new funds. Some plan to branch out into other businesses, while others want to improve their stock and still others want to start selling their products regularly in town, rather than only at the bi-weekly market.

Before receiving a new loan or a follow-up, every borrower fills out a survey. This enables us to keep track of how the loans are helping them to improve their lives, communities, and status as women.

We are often asked: Has the loan had a positive impact on your community? How?  

Most women said that it was easier to access services in the community. When service providers like health care workers and water companies learn that a community’s income is rising, they are willing to make greater investments in that community. Although this loan hub is new, the loan program’s impact on community development here is mimicking WMI’s amazing results in Uganda, and we couldn’t be happier about it!

Biyinzika
Biyinzika

Happy New Year! WMI has started the year with a bang: our newest microfinance loan hub just opened its doors in the Mukono region of central Uganda in partnership with Suubi Community Projects.  Suubi is a Luganda word meaning Hope.

Let us tell you something about this region and why Hope is so important: Mukono has 9 villages and was severely affected by the 1981-86 Uganda civil war.  War contributed to the increasing poverty in the area since so many people who were involved in agricultural activities were displaced and many killed. The war weakened the social-economic structures in the community, caused moral degradation, and increased HIV/AIDS prevalence, and thus widows and orphans increased in number.  Almost all households fail to meet their basic needs because of low incomes.  There is almost no access to quality basic needs  -- service providers such as schools and a health center are miles away from this community. 

On the 8th January 2016, Suubi gave its first loans to 40 women.  36 were already into business and took loans to expand their businesses; 4 started new businesses. The women are engaged in food stuff stalls, retail shops, charcoal stalls, night shift hotels, and fish selling.  The president is happy to report that she has been able to visit and evaluate each of the businesses since the loans were issued, and reports evidence of new stock and increased activity.

The pictures are of Nabbosa and her business. She is our profile borrower this month.  Nabbosa is 43 years old, and has been a widow for 13 years. She has 4 children: 2 girls and 2 boys aged 17 to 24.  All are attending day secondary school.

She runs a restaurant called Biyinzika, and it is the only source of income for her and her children. Her restaurant serves breakfast and lunch to about 50 customers every day. She employs one woman and her children also help at the restaurant when they are not at school.

She always wished she could get more capital to buy new equipment like pans, plates, cups and tables. However, this was not possible because her profits were only enough to pay rent and school fees for her children.  With the loan taken from SWMI, she has been able to buy these items and she expects this to increase the number of her daily customers.

Won’t you help women like Nabbosa by contributing to our loan fund?  As we reflect on our prior 8 years, we are gratified to see that our brand of international aid – allowing local determination to guide our resources – is having huge results. Your generous donations have made the WMI loan program a possibility and the hard work of the ladies operating our 15 loan hubs, turned that possibility into a reality - a successful, self-sustaining resource that will benefit generations of rural women. Thank you so much for your loyal and ongoing support! 

Nabbosa Serving a Customer
Nabbosa Serving a Customer
WMI Borrowers Learn to Embroider
WMI Borrowers Learn to Embroider

Greetings from Buyobo Uganda!

One thing we often remark on is the industriousness of our borrowers.  Not only are the women primary caregivers for their children, they are also responsible for the home vegetable plot, providing daily meals cooked over a charcoal or solar stove, and running their businesses.  Most women operate several businesses to take advantage of seasons and markets.  They may not be driving their kids to soccer practice, but never underestimate the multi-tasking skills these women employ just to get through each day.

Always looking for a new skill to parlay into a business opportunity, a group of our borrowers have also taken up embroidery. This October marked the beginning of a new Craft Class for borrowers in WMI’s Buyobo hub. With the expertise of two WMI staff members, borrowers are learning to embroider and knit various crafts. They are currently creating tablecloths and placemats made of yarn and cotton. The women meet every Monday and Friday from 4 – 6:30 p.m. to sharpen their skills and create beautiful décor to take to market. After each lesson they take their projects home to continue their work.

In keeping with our philosophy of valuing more highly that which you pay for, the class worked together to raise 750,000 shillings (about $200, which was matched by WMI) to purchase sewing needles, embroidery hoops, and fabric.  To put this in context, our business loans are in the 300,000-500,000 shilling range, so any contribution from their savings was quite an investment for the women.  In addition to taking their crafts to market, the class also intends to display their finished products during graduation in January for visitors to purchase.  Although our women don’t generally focus on the export or tourist markets, it will be interesting to see if they discover new opportunities to sell their goods.

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  As you gather with your families this holiday season and count your many blessings, we ask that you remember the women of our loan program who work so very hard each day just to make ends meet.  By supporting WMI, your generous gifts help us to put into place the loan funds and systems that help to create the opportunities for our borrowers to succeed.  WMI loans are not a hand-out.  Each loan is paid back with interest, and interest earnings support all program operations and community projects.  Thank you!

Lydia Graduates from University
Lydia Graduates from University

With your generous donations we started the WMI loan program eight years ago with twenty loans. This summer we issued our twenty thousandth loan. Total lending is now over $3million. The numbers may sound small by U.S. banking standards, but they are certainly impressive when you realize our average loan is only $150. It’s even more impressive when you learn our average borrower has been earning less than $130 a month when she joins our program. For her, a $150 loan is not a micro-loan; it’s huge! So, why would she borrow so much money? The answer is simple: working capital is the key to increasing business profits, which increases household income and living standards.

We collect borrower information on every loan we make, and every summer our interns analyze the data and prepare Fact Books to show the loan program’s impact on improving household living conditions and empowering women to become financially independent.

We look very carefully at the data for trends. We continue to see a rapid change in a borrower’s average income once they enter our loan program. Whereas 99.7% of all borrowers earned less than $1,560 per year when they entered the program, that figure drops to less than 3.7% in just two years. Our average borrower more than doubles her earnings in the two years she is in our program.

The loan enables her to kick-start an existing or new business. Most businesses are agricultural or provide necessities of daily living, such as other foodstuffs, tailoring, used clothing, and medicine, and are local in market scope. As her profits grow, she can expand the business, add to savings, which greatly reduces the negative impact of emergencies or unforeseen expenses, and improve household living standard. In Uganda, where education is a top priority, 75% of the women surveyed said they spent their profits on school fees as an investment in their children’s future.

Most exciting is that we are seeing generational change. We tasked our Buyobo, Uganda summer interns with interviewing the children of borrowers, several of whom have now completed their university educations, to get their impressions. It’s amazing how each one chose to talk about the impact the WMI loan program has had on their mother, their community, and, especially, their own opportunities. East Africa isn’t a place where you are given a job – it’s a place where you take the skills you have and make your own job. Watch the video and you will feel really confident that these kids will succeed at whatever they do!

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Organization Information

Women's Microfinance Initiative

Location: Bethesda, MD - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.wmionline.org
Project Leader:
Robyn Nietert
President
Bethesda, Maryland United States

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