SUMMER 2020          

  Follow us on Instagram: wmi instagram

 Check us out on Facebook: 

 Subscribe to our blog: wmi blog
    • East Africa Covid-19 Update
    • WMI for a Better World
    • 2020 Fact Book Reflects Loan Program Impact
    • Meet WMI's Summer Interns
    • Tanzania Businesswomen Respond to the Pandemic
    • Kyegegwa, Uganda Loan Hub Charts Road to Success
    • WMI Annual Matching Fundraiser Scheduled for Labor Day Week-end
East Africa COVID-19 Update  
The Covid19 virus is now spreading more quickly in East Africa with the following number of cases and deaths reported: Uganda: 2,263 and 20 deaths - this is 10 times the number of cases reported in our Spring newsletter; Kenya: 32,557 cases and 554 deaths - this is 25 times the number of cases reported in our Spring newsletter.
Hand-washing at WMI's HQ

Uganda began easing lockdown restrictions during the last week in May, allowing private cars and taxis back on the road and allowing shops and restaurants to reopen. Markets are returning to normal operations with face masks and social distancing in effect. The government will decide on school reopening in September. People are trying to resume their normal activities with hand-washing and other safety measures are being emphasized extensively in the media.  We have adopted all of these safety protocols at WMI headquarters in Buyobo.

Kenya is in a more difficult situation. The virus is spreading more quickly there with the epicenter located in Nairobi, a densely populated city of 4.5 million people. The second in charge at Kenya Medical Research Institute, the country's virus testing and vaccine trial agency, died in August of Covid-19 and the BBC reported that more than 450 workers in the health ministry been infected. Unable to reopen schools safely, the government has declared 2020 a "dead" year and all students will repeat it. Doctors in Nairobi have gone on strike demanding more PPE and demonstrators in the capital, protesting the fraudulent diversion of 400 million dollars in pandemic funds that was reported by a local television station's investigating team, have been dispersed by police using tear gas. Markets are disrupted, transportation is erratic and it is difficult for our women there to conduct business outside of their very local areas.
Drinking herbal tea in Tanzania.  Rijasolo/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
Tanzania has ceased reporting Covid-19 statistics and President Mogufuli, has declared the virus "absolutely finished", though the African continent has just exceeded one million reported cases. He is endorsing an untested Madagascar herbal tea as a virus cure, while belittling social distancing and the wearing of masks. 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.

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
WMI for A Better World
Teddy Namone works at Equity Bank in Mbale, Uganda - about a half hour from WMI's headquarters in Buyobo. The women in her family have been involved with WMI since it started in 2008.  She gave us this account of how it has impacted the community, her family, and her own journey to a career in banking.

All of us want to have a better life and a bright future. A life where one can afford every want and satisfy every need. We all look up to a life where a family can afford an education for their children, good health, decent meals, and good shelter. In Africa, even what is considered as an average family really struggles to obtain these or sustain them.

As a young girl, many children in our community admired us because we could afford three meals a day, which was unheard of in many homes. I can say they were thinking our family was an average one, which was not the case if I am to look at things in a keen manner.

We were equally struggling so much with school fees and we didn't have a decent shelter either. My father had lost all his businesses and was back home in his farm land, looking at his coffee plants as the major source of income; coffee is seasonal and at that time had no clear market so the plants did not have any great value then, yet were considered as the main cash crop in the Eastern region of Uganda. 
He made so many attempts getting involved in growing vegetables to supplement his income, which attempts were constantly frustrated by unpredictable weather changes that kept destroying the crops, in addition to unavailable markets. We grew up working so hard yet getting so little.

We went to rural Universal Primary Education [UPE] Schools where we were not paying a penny for tuition but still struggled back at home. The only stable income we looked up to as a family was our Mother's salary - a Primary Teacher's Salary, which is one of the lowest paying jobs here in Uganda. Meanwhile Mum had enrolled back in school for a Grade Five Certificate in Education (which would increase her pay), my sister Lillian was in secondary school, plus my two brothers (David and Seron) and my sisters Eunice and Jolly were still young and at home. All these along with dad and me depended on Mum's small salary.

When Lillian finished her catering course, Eunice and I were taken to a town school, Northroad Primary School, a modern UPE school, where we paid a little functional fee plus remedial lessons fee of approximately $3 which was not easily got either. This meant we were among the last kids to pay the fees, attain the school uniforms, or even the exercise books required.

My Primary Leaving Examinations Results came out good and I can say at some point, it became a village topic back home. Unfortunately, my parents wouldn't afford the best secondary schools in the region that had given me admission letters. I therefor enrolled in an averagely affordable school for my Ordinary Level Education and later, a community school for my Advanced Level Certificate of Education.

It was during my last year of secondary school when the Women's Microfinance Initiative was birthed in Buyobo. WMI had a vision for rural women. This vision caused a lot of transformation in my family and the community at large. My mother, Mayi Irene, joined WMI in the second group of borrowers. She was introduced to this great program by Aunt Olive, the Local Director of WMI in Buyobo. Many thanks to her generosity and great leadership.

This was a turning point for our family. Mum started securing some loans to start up income generating
Teddy's mum, Mayi Irene
activities. I personally actively got involved in a small business, selling shoes in rural markets during my form six vacation. This was a supplementary income for the family, which helped us to procure school requirements without having to struggle so much.

I joined a very legit University in Uganda, Makerere University, ranking the fifth best institution in Africa in the latest 2020 World University Rankings. I can boldly state that my life at university might not have been the best but I had this confidence, this esteem that I would complete and graduate because I knew we had finally gotten a shoulder to lean on. The first semester of every new academic year cost us approximately $545 at the time and the second semester approximately $405. During that very period, my sister Eunice also joined University and that means the cost doubled. At the same time, we had a younger sister, Jolly, in secondary school. One can imagine how life would have been without WMI. The same family that was struggling to raise $3 for primary school was the same family affording University education for two kids at the same time.

The role of WMI. As the program expanded, my mother with her teaching degree was given a part time job as a trainer and of course this attracted an extra wage, hence an extra income for the family. With the interns and program support teams coming to Buyobo, my sister Lillian with her catering skills earned a job at the guest house.

Through WMI, my mother has been able to start up different activities that call for man- power and this means someone else in the community has been able to earn themselves a job, thus a wage. As an example, I can take the year to year farm work - every family in Uganda has a small farm plot where they grow their basic food. That has offered a wage to different community members who plow, do the planting, the weeding, and the harvesting for our family. This is due to the fact that WMI has created employment opportunities and as Mum has her trainer's job and the children are also employed - we cannot fully do the garden work alone and we now have income to offer a wage to the farm workers who help us. Through this mighty loan program, a house structure that had failed on the foundation for years has been raised at our home, hence offering jobs to a number of youths who did the construction, who we were able to pay because of our businesses.  

All this stated herein is about one particular family. How many more families have this similar testimony to give? How many children have been able to attain an education because their mothers are either employees of WMI or beneficiaries of the loan facilities and skills training classes? How many more mothers have been able to foot a hospital bill to save a life because they secured a little income out of a WMI financed business? How many people have gotten a contract and therefore an income because they can supply uniforms for WMI staff? To go an extra mile, how many graduates secured a job in say, Post Bank, WMI's local banking partner, because the bank needed to expand due to a big customer like WMI and its rural business-women members? To the larger community, these are just a few examples in a whole range of the impacts of this program.

During my childhood, I had seen men afflicting women because most women had nothing financial to offer to their families. They only waited for the husband to come home with "a black kavera" (plastic shopping bag) which sometimes turned out not as anticipated. The husbands instead ended up in a bar on their way home only to enter into a home late in the night when the wife and children have slept on an empty stomach. Many more women were beaten up once they raised a complaint concerning their husbands not providing for the family. They were looked at as liabilities in their own homes.
Through WMI, I have seen a transition in our community. Many women have woken up and are working so hard to put food on the table. Many have become a pillar in their homes and thus changed the face of their homes and communities at large.

Great thanks to the entire WMI Board in the US and all WMI supporters, plus Mayi Olive Walimbwa, WMI Local Director here in Uganda, and all the WMI staff that embraced this great vision and are tirelessly working to see that the mission of this program is achieved. Blessings to you all, we are so proud of you and are so lucky to have been born in this generation to experience your great efforts.

2020 Fact Book Reflects Loan Program Impact
Working remotely, WMI's talented summer interns completed an analysis of borrower surveys, which were administered at three points during the two-year loan program cycle by a team of regional coordinators. 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 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.

Prior to entering the loan program, none of the women earned more than $100/month. After entering the loan program and starting a business, nearly 90% of the women earned over $100/month (with nearly 10% earning over $200/month). This meant that women were able to improve their household living standards:
  • 41% reported getting more food in general
  • 26% reported having more vegetables
  • 14% reported having more milk
  • 11% reported having more meat
  • 9% of women reported having more eggs
  • 100% reported it was easier to pay medical fees.
Eggs, meat, and milk are some of the most expensive commodities in rural villages. And, an inability to pay medical fees is one of the major crises that can push a marginalized family into an economic downward spiral from which they never recover.

Check out the Fact Book - see how the investments you have made in WMI have nurtured resilient and successful rural businesswomen who now provide for themselves and their families. 2020 Fact Book

Meet WMI's Summer Interns 
Cindy Matsiko is a rising sophomore at University of Maryland Baltimore County and lives in Germantown, Maryland. She is studying Psychology and Africana studies and pursuing a certificate in Elementary education. On campus, she is involved with the Food Recovery Network, which combats food waste, and the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. With family roots in Buyobo, she has visited the village several times and has met the local leadership team. She was excited to be a part of WMI's remote internship this summer. She chose WMI for her internship so she could learn more about where her family comes from, and more importantly, how big of an impact micro- loans can have on the women as individuals, as well as the community as a whole.
Luke Baxter is from Haddonfield, New Jersey. He is an upcoming second-year undergraduate at Princeton University. He intends to concentrate his studies in economics, with a certificate in finance. On campus, he is a member of the Lightweight Rowing Team, as well as the Peer Academic Advisor and Sophomore Leadership committees. Through his internship with WMI, he was excited to learn more about microfinance, and hopes to use the knowledge to contribute to future financial development in rural communities. He was interested to see Ugandan and Buyobo life through the lens of a nonprofit organization (and hopes to visit in the future). He was gratified to learn how non-profits and loan programs can positively impact and empower women and their families.


Tanzania Businesswomen Respond to the Pandemic
In Tanzania, public schools closed in April to contain the corona virus and they remained shuttered for three months. This meant that women who provided school-related services, like WMI member Johan Surumbu, had to brainstorm new ways to remain in business so that they could continue to provide an income to support their families.

Johan lives in rural Ayalabe, in the Ngorongoro Highlands, about 75 miles southwest of the central city of Arusha. Her business is selling bread and soft drinks. Before coronavirus her market was supplying bread to Aayalabe primary school and all the neighbors surrounding the school.

With the abrupt closing of schools, Johan was faced with the twin shocks of an immediate drop off in sales compounded by a surplus of inventory, some of it perishable. In order to continue to operate she came up with the idea of an outdoor stand near the local marketplace. Because people still had to move around to buy food, she was able to capture that new customer base and sell her inventory. This gave her capital to restock and her business was back on solid footing when schools reopened at the beginning of July. She is now selling at both locations and has expanded the market for her goods. "I have achieved a lot and I am very proud", she told her WMI Loan Group Coordinator.

Kyegegwa Loan Hub Charts Road to Success 
About 25 miles from Mubende in western Uganda, is the small village of Kyegegwa, where WMI started a loan hub this past fall under the supervision of the Buseesa Community Development Centre, one of our local partners. Mentored by our team in Buyobo, the BCDC staff is exceedingly competent and they know their borrowers extremely well. WMI is utilizing their skills to leverage the loan program's reach and expand services to women in even more rural locations like Kyegegwa. WMI president, Robyn Nietert, visited the ladies there on her annual field trip in January and found they were doing well. Then the pandemic hit and businesses were thrown into crisis operating modes. In mid-August, BCDC's director, Tusabe Tadeo, made a trip to Kyegegwa to check on the ladies' status and he filed this report:

On 15 August 2020, I went to Kyegegwa to visit the women's group. The main object of the visit was to assess their performance and advise them on several challenges which came about as a result of the pandemic. As any other lending group, they also faced the same challenges especially during the month of April whereby all markets were closed, including their busiest market in the nearby refugee's camp (Kyaka - housing people fleeing violence in the Congo). That market was their main source of income. 
Regulations on group meetings and falling agricultural product prices presented real problems. Making payments in April was quite challenging for most of them. In fact, even those who had the money to make payments didn't know how to deliver it to their leaders due to all of the government restrictions. 
Surprisingly, in May, about 65% of the members managed to make their loan payments. The number went on increasing and by the time I visited at least 85% had paid off their previous arrears. 
I visited almost all the borrowers' homes with their loan group leaders to address the individual challenges. Most of them had plans of making payments after sale of their agriculture products. Funny enough, some people even had their installments with them for the previous months and cleared their arrears. This was exciting. I must say the group is so amazing and trying their best. The first group of 16 to receive loans will have completed payments by November and so will others in the next two months. 
By way of group achievements, these ladies have managed to buy a plot of land where they hope to build offices for their meetings and to support expanding their loan program. They had their API culture upgraded (beekeeping).They also secured a bee harvesting kit from the District which has been their ultimate challenge for a long time.
I hope WMI continues to support this group as they struggle to help themselves towards development. Thanks very much for your endless support.

Tusabe Tadeo, BCDC Director

WMI's Annual Matching Fundraiser Scheduled for Labor Day Week-End
We anticipate that 2021 will bring with it an unforeseen priority for the ladies in the loan program: recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. In the six months since the corona virus hit, WMI has had a chance to assess the impact on the loan program and the rural women we serve. Many loans are being repaid at a slower rate as our borrowers' businesses contracted or even shut down temporarily. Although many women have developed innovative responses to doing business during a pandemic, we know some will need extra help.
We postponed our annual Mother's Day Matching Fundraiser and now have it scheduled for Labor Day Week-End. We will use the donations received to create a fund to help women get back on their feet. We will work with borrowers individually to restructure their loans by extending the terms or wrapping the balance due into new loans, under the advisement of our local loan coordinators. The matching fundraiser will run during the entire Labor Day Week-End. We very much appreciate your support during these difficult times!


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  

Follow us on Instagram to enjoy photos from the field: wmi instagram
Check us out on Facebook for videos, information and updates: wmi facebook
Stay up to date on village life through our blog: wmi blog

Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
Join our mailing list! wmicontact@gmail.com