SUMMER 2019           


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  • 2019 Loan Program Impact Fact Book
  • Ladies in Arua, Uganda Complete First Loans Successfully
  • Gomet Nabukwasi: Successful Pancake Street Vendor
  • Loan Program Income Electrifies Tloma, Tanzania Dispensary
  • Children Express How the Loan Program Affects Their Lives
  • Lewa, Kenya Loan Program Progress Report
  • They Were Incredible: Meet WMI's 2019 Interns
WMI's talented cohort of college students, under the direction of our Fellow of two years, Caitlin Seandel, completed an exhaustive analysis of 2,423 borrower surveys, which were conducted during the past 12 months by a team of regional coordinators who are fluent in both English and local languages.   WMI believes that it is essential to continue ongoing data collection and analysis to make sure that the loan program is having the intended impact and to gauge when and how modifications to program operations should be implemented. The Fact Book provides some fascinating insights into the lives of the rural women we serve. It documents just how profoundly the loan program disrupts the cycle of poverty.
Some highlights:
  • Savings rates more than doubled
  • Income increased over 500%
  • 98% loan repayment rate
  • 98% of borrowers report improved health
  • 99% of borrowers were able to purchase livestock
  • Every single borrower (100%) who is supporting a student's education reported that the challenges of paying educational fees have been alleviated by her business and her loan.
Check out the Fact Book - see how the investments you have made in WMI over the years have nurtured resilient and successful r ural businesswomen who now provide for themselves and their families.   2019 Fact Book


Last year WMI launched a pilot loan program in Arua, Uganda in partnership with the local CBO, Arua Women United For Poverty Eradication (AWUFPE). AWUFPE is mentored by Nancy Peed, the former President & CEO of Peach Regional Medical Center in Peach County, GA, who retired in 2015 and began serving as a consultant to the Hospital Director in the Ugandan regional hospital in Arua. Nancy asked WMI for assistance in starting a loan program for the women in the Arua area and the first loans were issued last year. Nancy provided this update of loan program operations in Arua:

The ladies of Arua are some of the strongest women I have ever met.  Like most of the women of Africa, the weight of their world (community, family, husband and children) rests on their shoulders.  They are responsible for the home, garden (digging), small businesses, raising the children, cooking, cleaning, etc.  Most of our ladies are widowed or abandoned by their husbands. Many are HIV positive and also have children with sicknesses such as HIV, asthma, and epilepsy.

Arua is a nice town, but there is abject poverty, lack of education and ability to pay school fees and very high rates of maternal mortality and very high incidences of malaria, with deaths, especially for those under 5 years of age.  We are near the Congo border, so we are on high alert for Ebola.  A couple of Ebola deaths have occurred about 150 km from Arua.

The refugees from South Sudan and Congo are welcomed in Uganda and there are numerous refugee  camps, including Bidi Bidi, which is the second largest refugee camp in the world, and last I checked the camp has over 270,000 refugees fleeing South Sudan.  Land has been allocated for the refugees and it seems pretty peaceful.  The refugees' proximity has increased the number of NGO's here, but most focus on the camps and refugees and fail to see the suffering of the host population.  Alcohol and drug use (marungi and marijuana) is common among both the refugee and local population. Trauma is common for both populations and many local organizations are teaching how to heal emotional trauma.  

Arua has 2-3 growing seasons and most ladies have some sort of garden, either to sell produce as a business or to help feed the family. Access to clean water and sanitation are problems.  Cases of typhoid are common and cholera has also been present within the last 6 months.  Good nutrition for babies is also an ongoing struggle due to high prices for food in Arua.

These a re beautiful, strong, resilient, resourceful women. They paid their first loans with no defaults and a second round of loans was issued in the spring. The women have reported increases in business profits and increased ease in paying school and medical fees!  Some have made home improvements in lighting, water and cooking sources!  And some now have animals!

The May management training WMI provided was great for my team.  We struggle with leadership and meeting attendance, but are getting there.  The ladies just held elections and replaced two management positions so we have an improved leadership team.  It's been a hard road, but we are maturing as a group albeit slowly!  We could not have done this without WMI's support.  Thank you! 

What is more delicious on a balmy summer day than a snack of fried dough? Nothing! That's why Gomet Nabukwasi has a thriving business selling home-made pancakes  at local street markets in rural villages.  She has a loyal following that always knows where she is setting up her stand.
On a busy day, Gomet can sell upwards of a thousand snacks. She buys her ingredients in bulk and does not need a lot of equipment to make her treats, so her business is quite profitable.
Check out how she does it in our 60-second video, which is one in a series created by our summer interns to introduce WMI supporters to the successful businesses which are thriving in the rural economies where our borrowers live.  Gomet video


As part of WMI's mission of women's empowerment, our economic model puts control of the WMI loan hubs in the hands of the rural women we serve. The interest from the loans is managed by our local partners and they select community projects to support with any revenue left over after paying the loan program operating expenses.

In Tloma, Tanzania our partner women's association, Ganako Women's Community Organization (GWOCO), recently completed a financial analysis that identified some extra funds that could be put to use on behalf of the  community. The ladies voted to electrify the local dispensary.  Established in 2008 by the Tanzanian government and contributions from the community, it is the only local health care provider in Tloma village, Karatu District, Tanzania. Serving an average of 40 patients per day, it plays a critical role in life or death situations. Doctors and nurses are stationed there 24/7 and are responsible for community health services.
During its past 11 years of operation, the dispensary has never had a power source. This made it difficult to improve care and complicated treatment, particularly at night. Medica l personnel used alternative light sources including flashlights and kerosene lamps, which is less than ideal. Nurses struggled, especially with night-time maternity care, and women feared for their own and their babies' safety. This caused the community to lose trust in the dispensary's services. Patients would choose to go to the next closest hospital for care, which in emergency situations was risky, and for non-emergency matters it increased medical costs significantly.

GWOCO staff budgeted costs, researched legal requirements, and located a trustworthy electrician to evaluate the plan before installation. Using revenue generated by the loan program, GWOCO financed and supervised the installation of a reliable electrical power supply. The  ladies will continue to monitor the system's operation and are looking to continue to input the dispensary's ability to offer improved health care services in the surrounding villages.
The community and medical staff were delighted and encouraged by GWOCO's investment in the dispensary. The power installation is reigniting people's trust in utilizing its services. This will in turn improve access to timely medical care right in their community and eliminate the added expense of traveling to a distant hospital for routine procedures.

WMI looks for ways to support the women in the loan program with ancillary inputs that help families stay healthy. In the Spring Newsletter, we reported on the screening of the innovative children's documentary Liyana, which we held in Buyobo for the boys and girls of the village. 

The fictional character Liyana is assigned dangerous adventures by the real life children in the film, who are orphans in Swaziland. Her perilous situations are brought to life through animated sequences that are interspersed with the children's reactions watching her deal with the high-risk problems they created for her. The experience of writing Liyana's story gave the children in the film a safe space to give voice to the private emotions they felt about the hardships they faced in their own lives.

After watching the movie, the children in our Boys and Girls Groups talked  about their own hopes and fears. We then put a session aside for the children to draw whatever was in their hearts. It was a free expression day.  Two of the boys drew particularly poignant pictures about their home life.  They explained what they had drawn in the pictures.

In the first picture a woman is suffering with her children because her husband is drunk and spends all of their money on alcohol.  The second picture is of the woman after she has suggested to her husband that she get a loan from WMI and they spend money on a business instead of alcohol, and now she is happy. 

WMI now operates from a gated headquarters compound with a separate office building, 500-seat pavilion, catering kitchen, and garage. Our local staff has grown to 50 highly-skilled village women who manage all of the loan program finances on expansive spreadsheets. Yet with all of these developments, WMI still serves an extremely impoverished, rural population of women who join the loan program not just for access to a business loan, but also in search of solidarity with other rural women who face extensive challenges in trying to care for their families.  The women's families, particularly the children, are profoundly affected by their mother's participation in the loan program and by her role as a rural businesswoman.

Five years ago WMI began a very productive partnership with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, on the Laikepia Plateau in Northern Kenya, to expand business loan access for the rural women who live near-by. The staff at Lewa recently undertook a survey of 67 women in 6 villages surrounding the conservancy to gain some insight into the loan program's influence on daily life for the women and local communities.

Business Inroads.  The study revealed that the loan is used for its intended purpose, with 90% of the women reporting they had started or expanded businesses. This was welcome news as one of the major risks with managing a microfinance program is that the loans will be used for consumables or to cover immediate needs instead of for long-term investment in a business.

With their business income loan program members were able to pay school fees, buy land, acquire livestock and improve their household assets. Repayment of the loan was generally described as "easy", indicating business income was sufficient to make borrowing advantageous to the ladies.

Uniting Families . Most of the respondents have reached out to family members to help them run their business. This further supports the evidence that we have been accumulating over the years: the businesses women start become family enterprises providing opportunities not just for the borrower but for her spouse and children as well. The deep involvement of family members reflects how the loan program has united families by providing the common goal of developing a successful business, which can be achieved by working together.

Illiteracy. Illiteracy is very high among the respondents, 82% do not have a primary level of education; 42% do not have any formal education at all. It is impressive that these ladies have attained business success without extensive formal education. At the same time, learning about the extremely low level of formal education has spurred us to investigate providing more adult literacy programs for our borrowers.

Sources of Stress . As with every other household on the planet, these women face life challenges from within their own families and from the outside environment as well. Common sources of stress include:
  • Unsettled family marital affairs such as trouble with in-laws, husband and co-wives
  • Farm produce and livestock loss which is mainly occasioned by drought
  • Human-wildlife conflicts especially with elephant, monkeys and baboons
Identifying these sources of stress is helping us figure out what we can do to provide workshops, information and education to help the women cope in a positive way.

Household Improvement. Business income led to significant improvements in the women's households. All of those surveyed owned livestock and 97% had been able to acquire land. Even if they acquired only a small plot, it means they are able to grow crops to feed their families.


From March through August 2019, Buyobo, Uganda was abuzz with the myriad projects, analyses and workshops being conducted by a phalanx of very talented college interns and recent graduates. They hailed from: Univ. of Wisconsin; Univ. of Manchester (England); Notre Dame; Berkeley;  University of Strathclyde (Glasgow); and Princeton.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these very passionate, talented and committed young adults who dove right in and managed everything from a primary school musical competition to revamping the web site to producing a high quality Fact Book that documents the impact of the loan program. Meet our roster of rising stars:  

Will Kuenster is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where he received degrees in Finance and Risk Management this past December. Will conducted a series of case studies on the successful businesses built by our borrowers, ranging from pharmacies to schools to tailoring shops. His goal was to gain an in-depth understanding of their day-to-day operations and see how their businesses fit into and impact their daily lives. His secondary goal was to work alongside the borrowers to brainstorm and implement new ideas to help the businesses continue to improve and grow. He was able to achieve both goals and had a very positive impact on the businesses that he supported.

Hilary Atayi is a graduate of the University of Manchester, where she studied Law. After working as a paralegal she switched her career focus to development and human rights, traveling to rural Burkina Faso to support women's rights in a local village. Hilary's next step will take her to Ghana as she protects women's rights at the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA). Hilary assisted with the introduction of reusable sanitary pads to the Buyobo community. She taught nearly 200 students to make them and trained nine teachers so that they can continue educating students. She also assisted with interviewing borrowers and preparing
business case studies.

Noah Cha is a sophomore from Irvine, California studying finance at the University of Notre Dame. He is heavily involved in the Investment Club and Special Olympics team on campus. Noah used his talents as a videographer to direct several videos about the loan program and its impact on the local communities. He had excellent technical skills and an engaging personality which put the women and their families at ease during the filming process. His final product was top-notch. WMI will share his videos over the next several months so that you can see how the loan program is continuing to change the lives of women and their families in East Africa.

Grace Collins is a junior at Princeton University, concentrating in Politics with potential certificates in African Studies and Political Economy. She is also a musician who sings in Princeton choral ensembles and has over ten years of previous experience on the trumpet and the piano. This summer, Grace introduced a music program at Buyobo Primary School with the support of WMI and Princeton University's Class of 1978 Foundation. Using grant money, a new set of traditional Ugandan instruments was purchased for the students. Grace also taught at the school three days a week, instructing the students in choral singing, and preparing them for their triumphant participation in a nation-wide school music competition.
Kelly Collins  is a recent graduate from University of California, Berkeley. She earned a B.S. from the Haas School of Business and a B.A. in Economics. During her junior year, she studied Management and Economics at the London School of Economics. Originally from La Jolla, CA, she will be moving to New York City in the fall to work as an Account Executive at Yelp. During her internship, Kelly investigated how loans impact both the scale of a typical business and household living conditions. By speaking to borrowers and analyzing survey data, Kelly drew conclusions on the effects of microfinance on the communities WMI serves and she prepared comprehensive write-ups on borrowers' business operations. She proved to be an adept interviewer and was able to develop detailed information on the nuances of how rural businesses succeed.

Paddy Mukasa is a junior at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting. During his freshman year, Paddy worked with a Malawian start-up, helping them establish bookkeeping systems. Originally from a small town in the Mukono district of Uganda, Paddy is passionate about microfinance and hopes to return to Uganda upon graduation so that he can continue to work in this field. While interning with WMI, Paddy analyzed data and prepared a borrower savings analysis.  He also created a Financial Literacy Handbook for our Boys and Girls Groups.

Caroline Plouff is a senior at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Political Science and Global Affairs. Caroline completed independent research in Rabat, Morocco on educational discrepancies in the post-French protectorate. Working with the Student International Business Council on campus, she developed a business plan to help save ancestral data in the Gulu Region of Uganda, post-civil war. This summer, she was responsible for preparing a village-by-village savings report and she helped with borrower interviews as well as writing up borrower case studies.

Ethan Seide, from Bethesda, MD, is a sophomore at Princeton University. He studies Operations Research & Financial Engineering with an emphasis on machine learning and optimization. He would ultimately like to found a tech startup that helps people in the developing world and brain-stormed ideas while interning with WMI this summer. As an aspiring engineer, Ethan led a project for village students to teach them about engineering and sustainable energy. He hopes to inspire the children so that they start their own projects to help the community in the future. Ethan spearheaded the project of redesigning WMI's website, which will be live in the next month. It was a huge undertaking and the updated result is just fantastic.

Nora Tucker is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame. She is pursuing a major in   Computer  Science. On campus, Nora is on the Engineering Leadership Council and Baraka Bouts, the women's boxing team. Nora used her technological background to help design the 2019 Fact book and partnered with Ethan on the website redesign project. Nora also taught a boxing lesson at Girls and Boys Group. She is passionate about WMI's mission of empowering women to better communities and throughout the summer was able to learn more about WMI's challenges and successes in becoming a trusted and successful organization in Buyobo.


WMI is extremely grateful for all of the support provided by our donors. Your commitment and thoughtfulness has allowed WMI to continue to expand and bring the benefits of economic opportunity to thousands and thousands of village women throughout East Africa.  
One of the most frequent refrains WMI President, Robyn Nietert, hears when she visits the far flung WMI loan hubs each year is: "Thank you for remembering rural women."  

A heartfelt thank you to every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.
The WMI Board of Directors  
Robyn Nietert    Betsy Gordon    Deborah Smith     Jane Erickson  
      Terry Ciccotelli     Trix Vandervossen    June Kyakobye  
Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
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