March/April 2016            




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In This Update...

  • WMI Launches Sewing Machine Project in Rwanda
  • WMI Building Construction Takes Off in Lewa, Kenya and Buputo, UG
  • Postbank Uganda Gifts Satellite TV System to Buyobo, UG
  • WMI Fellow Jess Littman Joins the Team in Karatu, TZ
  • Subscribe to the WMI Blog - Village Life at your Fingertips
  • 3G Comes to Buyobo, UG


WMI Launches Sewing Machine Project in Rwanda 
In March, WMI launched its first microfinance project in Rwanda, providing funding to the Tuzamurane Cooperative in Mbyo village, located in the Bugesera District in Eastern Province, to finance the purchase of 17 sewing machines by village women. WMI also provided funds for training the women. In partnership with WMI, the Huntly Foundation concurrently provided funding for 13 men to purchase sewing machines.
Mbyo is a reconciliation village where survivors and confessed perpetrators of violence during the genocide of the 1990s live side by side in an effort to build a new community paradigm. Through a reconciliation process, perpetrators publically confessed their crimes and survivors publically agreed to accept them into village life.  Most work as small farmers and live side-by-side in tin roofed houses, fetching water together and attending church together. They serve together on their village council and actively look for ways to rebuild economic opportunities in their community.
Local journalists, the executive secretary of the Mayange Sector, the leader of the reconciliation village and Mugisha Davidson, Director General of Wildlife Tours - Rwanda all turned out for the celebration marking the delivery of the sewing machines. Local dancers entertained the crowd and delighted the children. 
Mugisha is coordinating on site logistics for this WMI project.  W ith degrees from Makerere U. in Kampala, and a Master's of Science in Conservation and Tourism from the U. of Kent in the U.K., Mugisha is a leading Rwandan    proponent of community-based conservation, which seeks to include disenfranchised local populations in the economic benefits of tourism. WMI is also building on this model in its partnership with Lewa Conservancy in Kenya. Through these partnerships, we are seeking to leverage our expertise in village-level microfinance to bring more economic opportunities to rural women in East Africa.
Construction Takes Off in Lewa, Kenya and Buputo, UG 
"Going up and nearly finished!" That's how you could describe WMI's two current building projects in East Africa.
In March, Lewa Conservancy in northern Kenya broke ground on the addition of a new one room expansion space to house its community outreach team, including its microfinance program coordinators. WMI began partnering with Lewa last year when we funded the expansion of their existing women's loan program to add 110 new rural borrowers to the program.
Pressed for space to accommodate staff to manage loan program expansion, WMI provided funds to construct a new room and acquire a motorbike to manage the loan groups. As we all know, running a local microfinance program is not just about funding loans. It's about building local infrastructure and human capacity to make operation of the loan program manageable and feasible at the village level.
The beautiful new WMI office in Buputo, Uganda will provide a 200-seat meeting room and two administrative spaces for the Matuwa Women's Group, our local partner in this loan hub. Launched in 2014, Matuwa now has 10 loan groups. A ribbon-cutting for the land, which was acquired by the loan program members, occurred during WMI President, Robyn Nietert's, visit to Buputo this past February. Built by WMI's long-time contractor, Sam Wesomoyo, the Buputo office marks the eighth building WMI has constructed in Uganda!
Postbank Uganda Gifts Satellite TV System to Buyobo Loan Hub

Dancing, singing, and more dancing! That's how the April celebration in Buyobo progressed to mark the momentous occasion of PostBank Uganda (PBU) presenting the WMI loan program with a satellite dish and big screen TV for the newly constructed 500-seat pavilion.
This was an important milestone for cementing the relationship between WMI's local partner, Buyobo Women's Association (BWA) and our primary banking partner, PBU. In collaboration with our friends at Mbale PBU branch, the executive leadership from Kampala commemorated our successful private-public partnership with a staff presentation of the flat-screen television and satellite dish.  The ladies were beyond thrilled. The gift is symbolic of the mutually beneficial relationship we have built with PBU and will become another income-stream for BWA. Together, BWA and PBU have created a successful model for reaching village-level women - a cause worth celebrating!
The BWA leadership was especially gratified that PBU managing director, Stephen Mukweli, traveled all the way from Kampala to Buyobo (6 hours) to lead the PBU team making the presentation! It was a very generous act on his part, reflecting the personal interest he has taken in developing the bank's support for WMI's efforts to bring financial services to rural women. Pictured center in the photo at left, the managing director has become one of the most welcome visitors to the Buyobo loan program! 


WMI Fellow Jess Littman Joins the Team in Karatu, TZ

What does a recent college graduate do after serving both as a high school intern with WMI in Buyobo and a college intern with WMI in Bethesda? Why she accepts a one-year Fellowship with WMI in Karatu, Tanzania of course!
WMI is so pleased to announce that Jess Littman started in February in the new, one-year post, as WMI Fellow in Tanzania. With nearly 20 loan groups scattered throughout villages surrounding Karatu (Tloma, Buger, Gongali, Sumawe) WMI wanted to provide our village leaders with on-site support to help them develop efficient and effective systems operations and administrative practices. As an alumnus of two different WMI internship classes and a graduate of NYU, Jess was just the person for the job.
She hit the ground running, overseeing the issuance of new loans and follow up loans just two weeks after she arrived! With Jess' hands-on advice and input, we believe the Tanzania loan program will continue to expand steadily.

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In an effort not to swamp your in box with too many emails, the WMI newsletter is published just 6 times a year (every other month). It provides some highlights of our growing loan program's operations and a few insights into the economic impact the loans have on rural women and their families. But for a real peek into village life and the impact your contributions have in improving the economic opportunities for rural women and their families, subscribe to the WMI blog!

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Each month our Fellows in Uganda and Tanzania are posting stories and pictures from the field - in real time! Reading the blogs gives you a better idea of just how far-reaching and deeply meaningful the loan program is for the women and families we serve. You will be able to understand better the impact of a village breast cancer screening day or a Ruby Cup menstrual management outreach or a first time loan issuance in a new village. Log on and get to know the village women who are our partners and leaders in making financial inclusion a reality for thousands and thousands of village women.
3G Wireless Service Arrives in Buyobo!

It may seem like a small step for technology, but it was a giant step for womankind when 3G wireless service debuted in Buyobo in mid-April. The lack of reliable wireless communications is just one of the myriad challenges faced by rural businesswomen. It's an obstacle that makes operating a village-level loan program or rural business so logistically challenging. But relief is on the way!
Due to the tireless efforts of WMI's Fellow in Uganda, Ashley Van Waes, 3G service was inaugurated in Buyobo village two weeks ago. With a booster station and router, the old modem, which only allowed one computer to communicate at time, was laid to rest and the new era of wireless service throughout the WMI office building was inaugurated. Welcome to the 21st century, Buyobo!
Local Director, Olive Wolimbwa (right) and Assistant Local Director, Jackie Namonye, could not be happier to be able
to work online, side-by-side, for the first time in Buyobo's history!



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 each and every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.


Gratefully,oard of Directors 

Robyn Nietert          rgnietert@aol.com  

Betsy Gordon           betsygord@mac.com
Deborah Smith        deborahwsmith@yahoo.com

June Kyakobye        jgkyakobye@yahoo.com

Trix Vandervossen   trixvdv55@gmail.com 

Jane Erickson          ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli         terryciccotelli@gmail.com 
Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
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