November/December 2013  


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In This Update...


  • WMI Year-end Presentations at Federal Agencies and International Organizations
  • Atiak, Uganda Loan Hub Begins Building Construction
  • Loans Introduced for Water Tanks in the Ntumburi, Kenya Loan Hub
  • HIV/Cervical Cancer Education and Screening in Buputo, Uganda Loan Hub
  • WMI Ladies Trained in Making Reusable Menstrual Pads (RUMPs)
  • Summer High School Internship Program in Uganda -  Registration Open
  • Thank You for Supporting Another Year of Empowering Rural African Women

 WMI's President to visit the Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania loan hubs in January/February


Year-end Presentations at Federal Agencies and International Organizations

Robyn Nietert with Ed Gingold and CFC Director

During the fall, WMI was invited to make multiple presentations at federal agencies and international organizations in conjunction with their annual employee giving campaigns. Two of the highlights were events at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and World Bank's Africa Division Annual Holiday Celebration. Attorney Linda Gilbert, a long-time WMI supporter arranged for WMI's third appearance at FERC. This agency is a leader in donations through the federal government's Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Last year WMI received nearly $40,000 in contributions through the CFC, a sizable portion attributable to generous donations by FERC staff. Special thanks to Ed Gingold, FERC's CFC coordinator extraordinaire for giving WMI President, Robyn Nietert, the chance to introduce its mission and goals to more and more FERC staff each year!

Economist Barbara Geiser, Senior Operations Officer at The World Bank, invited WMI back for the second year to talk at a Bank brown bag lunch event. This led to an invitation to present at the annual holiday event for the entire Africa Division - attended by a crowd of 250 staff members who applauded enthusiastically after the WMI video showcasing Joy Nangalama and her ever-evolving produce/dried fish/beer/motorcycle taxi/power saw rental business! This year contributions to WMI from World Bank staff will be matched 40% by funds from The World Bank.  


 Atiak, Uganda Loan Hub Begins Building Construction

 In 2012, WMI launch a loan hub in Atiak, Uganda - just 10 miles from the South Sudan border. The insurgency in Northern Uganda forced many families from their homes and farms in this region. Local women formed The Blessed Watoto women's group to manage the WMI loan program, which is providing loan funds, business training and critical support services for borrows in the area. WMI's Local Director, Olive Wolimbwa and WMI Resource Fellow, Melissa Lareau just returned in mid-December from an oversight and training visit to the Atiak loan hub.

Olive reports that this loan hub's performance is "perfect" and Melissa found that, "These women are pretty great." Their businesses are thriving, they are prompt on their loan repayment and bookkeeping is going on well.

Because there are few resources in this part of the country, the ladies in the loan program have no building where they can meet. They obtained a land lease and are now working to construct a loan program meeting pavilion. Melissa took the first pictures of the building construction that is now underway, with Sylvia Akello, Blessed Watoto Chairperson, her husband Komakech, and Olive standing in the brick-lined foundation. 



Loans Purchase Water Tanks for Women in the Ntumburi, Kenya Loan Hub

Access to water is an acute problem in the central highlands of Kenya. As the climate becomes dries and droughts erode the country's natural resources, it becomes increasingly difficult for families to grow food or support any type of livelihoods. Kenya's Environment Cabinet Secretary Judy Wakhungu said that "most affected populations are characterized by widespread acute poverty, chronic food shortages, inadequate social services and harsh climatic conditions resulting from frequent and prolonged droughts. Droughts have accelerated soil degradation, reduced per-capita food production and led to massive internal migrations, forcing communities to flee their localities to already-overcrowded areas thereby causing disputes over scarce resources use."

WMI's partner in the central Kenya loan hubs, Elissa Eva, has collaborated with WMI to spearhead a home water tank construction loan program for women in this drought-stricken region. One her December trip to these loan hubs, Elissa reported that20 of the first borrowers in the Ntumburi loan hub had taken water tank loans and all 20 tanks had been installed. When she visited, "most women were at work on their crops (irrigated with water from their tanks) and the men were helping a lot. They are able to plant some vegetables that they never could before, like onions, because they require regular watering. Great to see. I have learned there are so many different ways to install/use the tanks. Water really is life. They all are chomping at the bit for a tank!"

Elissa also innovated a great way for the women to file their loan repayment deposit slips with WMI. With an inexpensive camera, she showed them how to take a picture of the slips and attach� the picture to an email, instead of incurring the high cost and large time commitment required to scan and send the deposit slips form an internet caf�. Other loan hubs will be following suit.



HIV/Cervical Cancer Education and Screening in Buputo Loan Hub

On November 30, WMI partnered with RAIN-UGANDA to provide an HIV/cervical cancer education and screening session to women in Buputo. The head administrator of the loan hub worked with BWA to mobilize 100 women for the screening; however, there was so much interest in the program that 150 women showed up to be screened! WMI has worked with RAIN-UGANDA to provide screenings/education sessions near other loan hubs, and the events have always been beneficial.

The Director of the WMI program in Uganda said that having women screened is good because even if a woman is sick she may not have any symptoms, and therefore, will not seek treatment. In addition to providing screenings and education sessions, RAIN-UGANDA also provides pre- and post-counseling for women being tested for HIV. It also provides referrals to other health facilities and hospitals for further treatment when needed. WMI's work with RAIN-UGANDA has been widely successful; the women in Buputo benefit immensely from this service and the ladies of Buyobo have requested RAIN-UGANDA to return to their village for another screening and education session! WMI hopes to work with RAIN-UGANDA for many years to come!


WMI Ladies Trained in Making Reusable Menstrual Pads (RUMPs)

On Saturday, December 21, the Buyobo Women's Association which manages WMI's Buyobo Loan Hub, hosted Marissa Swanson, an employee for Arlington Academy of Hope (AAH) in Bududa. Marissa taught the women how to make RUMPs and the benefits of using RUMPs. She also talked about family planning and how women can plan when they get pregnant so it is convenient for their families. AAH works with primary and secondary students and in talking to girls they realized many girls face health and education problems when they start menstruating. Girls often use unsanitary materials when menstruating because they are not able to afford proper sanitary napkins. In addition, they are embarrassed to attend school when menstruating so they often stay at home, which causes them to miss weeks of school during the year. With RUMPs girls are able to have a sanitary option to use when menstruating, and they are also able to attend school.
The women enjoyed making the RUMPs and said they would teach their daughters and other women in their households how to make them. They also said they learned so much from the discussion on family planning and asked Marissa to return to Buyobo any time she had a health lesson for them! This training was so popular that the line of women waiting to participate snaked around the WMI building.
RUMPS, HIV/Cervical Cancer screening, and similar types of outreach programs provide valuable support services to the women in the loan program. WMI continues to search for ways it can partner with other local organizations and individuals to bring new and useful ideas and information to the woman to improve their quality of life and family living standards in a sustainable manner. 



Applications Being Accepted for 2014 High School Internship in Uganda




Since 2008, BWA has hosted over 50 high school and college interns from around the US who have traveled to Buyobo to volunteer with WMI. 2014 will mark the fifth year that Walt Whitman High School has organized an internship trip for high school students. The trip for the upcoming summer is currently scheduled for June 25 - July 16, 2014.

This year's trip will be led by Ms. Becky Brown and Mr. Jim Cannon (husband of Whitman teacher Laurie Safran). Ms. Brown has taught in Montgomery County for 6 years.  She is a special education teacher at Whitman.  This will be her first time leading this trip to Uganda. Also chaperoning this trip for the third time is Jim Cannon, who continues to design and implement the building improvements at Buyobo Primary School.

Typical intern projects include: teaching in Buyobo Primary School' working with women in their businesses each afternoon after teaching; teaching computer skills to students and women in the WMI loan program utilizing the Internet Caf� launched by Whitman interns in the summer of 2010; repairing and refurbishing old classrooms; constructing and updating new classroom; and, lots of meals, games, sports and socializing with the village youth - most of whom stay glued to the side of the interns during their entire stay in Buyobo.

To read about past high school internship experiences log onto the WMI web site: http://wmionline.org/intern/uganda-highschool-internships.html

For further registration information email Laurie Safran at: Laurie_Safran@mcpsmd.org 



Thank You for Supporting Another Year of Empowering Rural African Women



WMI will complete its annual report for 2013 by the first quarter of next year; but, we can tell you right now that 2013 has been a year of milestones and measurable impact in empowering the village women of East Africa. We are seeing that the impact of WMI loans is long-lasting: women are able not just to start businesses, but they are able to stay in business. The businesses are sustainable. The ongoing income generation continues to result in improved living conditions for rural women and their families. One of the most impressive results is that women indicate they pay their children's school-fees and university fees with their business income, paving the way for improved opportunities for the next generation.


As the loan program continues to grow, WMI is expanding its infrastructure with the construction of additional meeting pavilions in partnership with the local women's organizations managing the loan hubs: the local groups acquire access to the land and WMI provides construction funds. This is just one example of how WMI's village-level model is empowering local women to take charge of their future and become proactive on behalf of themselves, their families and their community. All of this is possible because of your generous support. Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do to give rural women in East Africa an opportunity to improve their lives!








The WMI Board of Directors


Robyn Nietert          rgnietert@aol.com  

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

June Kyakobye        junekyaks@yahoo.com

Trix Vandervossen   bvandervossen@imf.org 

Jane Erickson          ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli        terryciccotelli@gmail.com