FALL 2020          

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    • East Africa Covid-19 Update
    • Loan Program Hubs Recovering from Impact of Shut Downs
    • Check Out WMI's Newest Video: WMI Borrowers Generate Income
    • From Rural Girl to Professional Businesswoman
    • Table Tennis Grant for Buyobo Students
    • Support WMI Through Amazon Smile
    • Labor Day Fundraiser A Success - Thank You to Our Supporters!
East Africa COVID-19 Update  
The Covid19 virus is continuing to spread in East Africa with the following number of cases and deaths reported: Uganda has 15,000 cases and 140 deaths. By comparison, Spain, with a similar population, has reported 40,110 deaths. Kenya recorded 66,000 cases and 1,180 deaths.  Tanzania is not reporting virus statistics. Though the virus continues to spread, the reported death rate is still quite low.

This week Uganda further eased lockdown restrictions, including allowing up to 200 people in private and public gatherings.  Movie theaters and gyms are allowed to re-open next week but bars and restaurants remain closed. Schools that met safety standards (masks, temperature guns) were allowed to re-open several week ago, after a seven-month break, but only for certain classes. No date has been announced yet for the return of other students. During the closures many school yards had become grazing compounds for livestock and buildings became infested with termites, presenting additional challenges to the over-burdened education ministry.

Kenya is struggling to control a recent surge in cases.  Health officials there say the public's failure to observe safety guidelines has led to a dramatic jump in daily infection rates. The president, Uhuru Kenyatta, just re-imposed new guidelines to curb the virus's spread, only a few weeks after lifting some restrictions. Public gatherings are banned and there is a 10 pm curfew.  Infection rates increased from 4% in September to 16% in October.

In Tanzania, President Magufuli still contends there is no Covid virus and there are no restrictions in place. He stopped reporting virus statistics in April when the country had 500 reported cases. Surrounded by eight other countries (including Uganda and Kenya) that are all continuing to report cases, it is highly likely that the virus continues to spread in Tanzania as well. 

Our staff reports that people rarely wear masks, bars and restaurants are open, and public gatherings are common. There is no local testing. Yet, villagers are not reporting that they notice any significant increase in deaths from flu-like symptoms or cases at local clinics. This is consistent with observations from opposition leaders and international and local health officials in urban areas - there does not appear to be a public health crisis from the pandemic. Explanations might be that the country's young population is more resistant to the virus - the median age in Tanzania is just over 17½ compared to 38½ in the US - and the country has limited transportation options so people are not very mobile.

WMI is continuing to educate its businesswomen on safety procedures and to encourage best practices as they continue to operate their local enterprises, which are vital to their families' well-being.

Leadership staff at WMI Headquarters in Buyobo, Uganda

Our local teams continue posting on social media to keep us current on the situation. You can follow us and check in using these links:   Instagram    Facebook    Blog
Loan Program Hubs Recovering From Impact of Shut Downs
The situation in East Africa has improved over the past few months for the ladies in the loan program.
Olive Wolimbwa, our local director, and her team at WMI headquarters
          WMI staff member sanitizing her hands 
 in Buyobo have adopted safety guidelines to help protect the health of the borrowers and the community. They provide training, supplies, and set an excellent example for the community.  Hand-washing stations installed throughout the WMI compound remind staff and visitors alike to follow precautions.
Many borrowers throughout our loan hubs in eastern Uganda sustained business losses during the first months of the pandemic. Through an extensive audit, Olive and her team found that 20% of borrowers lost extensive inventory and require new loans to restock their businesses. Losses due to closed markets, spoilage and aggressive policing were the most common. Ladies selling fresh produce, running roadside restaurants and operating small shops with perishable goods were the most severely impacted. WMI intends to issue new loans and extend payment periods for the existing loans.

In Southwestern Uganda, our local partners report that the ladies in the newest hub, Kyeggegwa, have managed to weather the business slow-down caused by pandemic restrictions and are now seeing a return to more normal operations.  New loans will be issued there next month.
      Staff surveying village women about their businesses
After a hiatus of several months, the staff of our local partner in central Kenya, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, is back to work full-time. They undertook field surveys of the women in the loan program, accompanied by local leaders who have been liaising with the borrowers during this crisis.  
During the worst periods of the pandemic restrictions, weekly sales and household income both fell by about 90%. Over 80% of the participants in the survey reported that businesses had been significantly affected. It was reported that households' primary immediate concern in early April became how to secure food. As a result, loan repayments reduced to about 34% from the 95% repayment rates before the pandemic.  
The virus has represented a serious crisis for borrowers in our central Kenya loan hub communities. WMI
Shopkeeper in Laikepia
will provide additional funding support to cushion the women's businesses as they get back on their feet.  
In our newest loan hub in the Masai Mara in western Kenya, which was just launched in early February 2020, women are seeing a return to more normal business operations. They too experienced food shortages throughout the spring and WMI provided relief funding to help them through that crisis. Our local chairwoman there, Manuella Sopia, reports women are now repaying their loans on varying schedules as their businesses revive. By the end of the year she expects things will have settled out for most of the borrowers and she intends to reissue loans at that time to those who need them.  

For the past months, Tanzania has not implemented any virus restrictions. Local customers have returned
Loan group chairwoman presenting the new sewing machines
to the markets and women have resumed normal business operations. The virus still impacts the country's economy as tourism has fallen off dramatically. Most families have members linked in some way to the tourism industry and that income has dried up. This makes the income from the women's business increasingly important to sustain their households. Because the local markets are operating normally, most women generate sufficient income to repay their loans comfortably.
The first group of women in several of our Tanzania locations finished their two-year cycle and graduated from the basic loan program. The staff organized a ceremony to honor their achievement, with congratulatory speeches by local government officials. WMI and partner Judy Lane presented the women's group with four sewing machines for a new cooperative venture they proposed. Plus, the manager of the local branch of Exim Bank offered the graduates fee-free bank accounts, which the ladies greatly appreciated!
Check Out WMI's Newest Video: How Borrowers Earn Income
This summer our interns created videos from footage taken in the villages so that you can see our entrepreneurial women in action. Visit with the ladies at their businesses in Cindy Matsiko's 5-minute video: How WMI Borrowers Generate Income. We think you'll really enjoy teacher Susan's deft handling of the obstreperous turkeys in WMI's Girl's Group turkey-rearing project.

2020 - How WMI Borrowers Generate Income
2020 - How WMI Borrowers Generate Income

From Rural Girl to Professional Businesswoman
Our Summer Update featured an article by Teddy Namono detailing how WMI loans and training had changed her family's life. Teddy, along with her mom and sister, have worked with WMI for over a decade, using WMI loans to start small businesses to supplement the family's income. All the while, Teddy pursued every educational opportunity available so that she could work in the formal sector. We thought you would enjoy reading her biography to see how rural girls can climb out of poverty and join the ranks of professional women redefining Uganda's governmental and corporate sectors. It takes serious determination and persistence to gain enough experience to land a career position.

I was born in Busedani, a small parish in Buyobo Sub-county, Sironko District, in the Eastern part of Uganda. Despite the fact that I went to moderately simple schools because my Parents wouldn't afford high standards schools, my consistent performance gave them more reasons to
 grab any opportunity that would supplement their incomes to pay school fees - thus the genesis of my Mother joining WMI.

I held different leadership responsibilities at schools including: Vice Chairperson Scripture Union and an Assistant Information Prefect at Masaba Secondary School, Head Monitor at Ekitangaala Transformational High School, the Praise and Worship Team Leader at El-Shadai Fellowship, and Treasurer of the Annual Finalists' Equipping Conference of Makerere University, where I graduated with an Honors' Degree of Science in Population Studies.

After graduating, I worked as a data collection Officer at the National Housing and Population Census, and then as a Quality Assurance Operator at the National Security Information Systems (NSIS) Project under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, for the very first National ID Project in Uganda.  
Teddy at work at the bank
I also worked as a Research Assistant at the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda in the Manafa Research Project for three months, and then volunteered at the Kampala Area Federation of Communities (KAFOC) working with Child Fund at the Mbuya Project for one year.

Thereafter, I joined Kampala city government as a Data Collector at their Faecal Sludge Management Project for four months; later I worked with BeadforLife as a Research Assistant for two months. I then joined the National Identification and Registration Authority as a Data Processing Officer for one year.

Finally, I obtained a position with Equity Bank Uganda Limited, where I am currently employed as a Customer Service Officer (Front Desk). My tasks include: Account Opening, Statements Issuance, Digitization of Client Information, Processing Credit Cards, and handling client inquiries and complaints. I use the skills I learned from my prior work experiences and it is a job I thoroughly enjoy!

Table Tennis Grant for Buyobo Students 
In January, we started a new tennis table program for the Buyobo village youth. It was the brainchild of Kevin Mafabi, a top table tennis player in East Africa and certified coach, who has family roots in Buyobo. He and his cousin, (WMI board member) June Kyakobye, received University scholarships in the sport. WMI provided equipment and Kevin is managing the program with the aim of
Kevin with one of the young students
qualifying some of our Buyobo youth for scholarships to play on secondary school and university teams.

Through Kevin's initiative and grant writing skills, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), which governs table tennis worldwide, has agreed to partner with our Buyobo Table Tennis Club in a move to help us safely resume operations during the current global pandemic. The ITTF has awarded our Club a $1,200 grant to purchase supplies and protective gear in order to be able to start practices again (the club is housed at WMI's headquarters building in Buyobo).

We are delighted with these additional resources as the children, who have been out of school, will now have the opportunity to start training again. Kevin was very pleased that our Club, which was just been formed this year, was chosen as one of only 12 clubs worldwide for this financial support.

WMI is grateful to be part of a growing network of activists who are securing resources for rural women and their families. All of these inputs help improve the opportunities and living conditions for rural households.

Support WMI Through Amazon Smile
The pandemic has fueled a seismic shift to digital shopping as more people than ever are ordering a host of products online. If you utilize Amazon, your purchases could support WMI through the Amazon Smile platform. Instead of logging on to the Amazon web site when purchasing, buyers log on to the parallel Amazon Smile web site, select a favorite charity, and that organization will receive .05% of qualified purchases at no cost to the buyer. WMI is registered with Amazon Smile. We would welcome the participation of our supporters! Just log on to the Amazon Smile web site to get started.  Amazon Smile

Labor Day Fundraiser A Success - Thank you to Our Supporters!
Thank you to everyone who participated in the WMI Labor Day fundraiser.  It was quite a success. We know the pandemic is presenting difficult challenges, so we were especially grateful to all our supporters who were able to donate.

WMI is well on its way to having sufficient funds on hand to meet the extra expenses the loan program has incurred as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We appreciate your understanding and thoughtfulness as WMI seeks to provide additional resources to help the rural women we serve stay in business.



These are indeed trying times - particularly for women living on the edge of poverty, who depend on their business income to sustain their families. WMI is extremely grateful for all of the support provided by our donors, especially during this world crisis.  Your commitment is helping us support rural businesswomen during the pandemic and giving us the resources to get them back on their feet again.
The WMI Board of Directors 
Robyn Nietert    Betsy Gordon    Deborah Smith    Jane Erickson  
      Terry Ciccotelli     Trix Vandervossen    June Kyakobye  

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