• May 8-9: Annual Mother’s Day Fundraiser

  • IMF Program Awards WMI $15,000 Grant

  • Anatomy of a Loan Issue

  • Adult Literacy and Numeracy Classes in Tanzania

  • Improving Three-Stone Cooking Efficiency

  • Demand for Loans and Re-training Surge

  • Girl’s Empowerment Program -- A Success Story
Corona virus update: Reports of corona virus infections and deaths continue to be far below anticipated rates in East Africa, with only 335 deaths reported in UG and 2,710 in KY (TZ does not report pandemic statistics). Schools have re-opened and businesses are mostly operating normally, although there is an 8pm–4am curfew in Nairobi. Uganda began its national vaccination program with 1 million doses donated by the Indian government; Kenya has also begun its program with two-thirds of healthcare workers reportedly vaccinated. Tanzania has yet to announce any plans. Tanzania’s former president, John Magafuli, died in March amid rumors he had contracted Covid-19.
May 8-9: WMI’s Annual Mother’s Day Week-End Matching Fundraiser
As is our tradition, WMI will be holding its annual matching fundraiser on Mother’s Day weekend. This is our yearly online giving event and we would be delighted to have your participation! Individual donor support is vital to WMI's operations.  

For over a dozen years we have been able to deliver WMI's grassroots loan and training services directly to village women in East Africa. Last year, the women and families we serve experienced severe economic stress from Covid-19 as their countries shut down and businesses were put on hold. Our support during this difficult time took many forms from extending loan payment periods, to issuing new loans, to supplying PPE to communities, to providing emergency food stocks, to support for orphans, and creating workbooks for children who were out of school. We expect this year to be much improved and would welcome your support as the ladies get back to business on a wide-scale basis.
This year we have added a special feature to the Mother’s Day Fundraiser: three randomly selected donors will each receive one of these beautifully crafted baskets sent to us by members of the Girls Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Program. Although they appear to be made of dyed reeds or stalks, the baskets are tightly woven from discarded plastic bags and feature traditional colors and designs. The girls sent them to us as a thank you for WMI’s support of the outreach program featured in the last article below.
IMF’s Giving Together Program Awards WMI A $15,000 Grant

We are delighted to announce that the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Giving Together Program has awarded WMI a $15,000 grant.

After conducting an in-depth survey, WMI found that 450 WMI loan program members suffered severe damage to their businesses from pandemic-related government lockdowns, shuttered marketplaces, stay-at home orders restricting buyers, closed public transit systems, and looting. Businesswomen who tried sleeping in their market stalls to protect their inventory were chased away by local security officers and their stock was pilfered. Our borrowers’ ability to operate their businesses and repay their loans was severely inhibited. The IMF funds covered expenses to help women re-stock and open their doors for business again, as well the purchase of COVID-related personal protective equipment.
Anatomy of A Loan Issue

As you can imagine, issuing loans to women in rural villages is not simply a matter of walking into a local bank branch, filling out an application form that is verified electronically, and then seeing the money show up in your account via an online transfer. Take a quick
journey through WMI’s April loan issue in a small village in Uganda.

Four hours west of Kampala is Buseesa, where WMI’s local partner, BCDC, helps manage a robust loan program of over 1,000 borrowers. The BCDC team is mentoring a new loan hub 2 hours away in the small village of Kyegegwa. The April loan issue in Kyegegwa begins with BCDC officers Moses and Tusabe getting on motorbikes in Buseesa for a two-hour journey over mostly dirt roads so thick with dust that it is sometimes hard to breathe.
First stop: the Postbank Branch in Mubende town where they withdraw the funds that WMI has wired for the loan issue - then on to Kyegegwa where the meeting starts with Specioza, the loan group chairwoman, signing the WMI grant agreement. As her name implies, she is indeed a special woman and an outstanding leader. Thirteen years ago her husband left her to raise six children on her own. Now at 56, she is still an energetic farmer of beans and maize plus she keeps three dairy cows and sells the milk. With her profits she constructed a four-room brick house for her family.
The women in the loan group congregate under a tree to wait their turn to be called to receive their loans. Many have walked several miles to the meeting, some carrying small children. They have all brought their loan records with them.

Before starting the loan issue, the group leaders count the money and agree with Tusabe and Moses on the total amount received. Then each woman meets separately to review the loan terms with the Chairwoman and the Treasurer, sign her loan agreement and receive her funds. The women were trained in businesses skills and record-keeping at a previous meeting. Each has a pink loan passbook we created to record her loan information.

After all the loans are issued, the women relax under the tree and review their passbooks to make sure that the loan information is correct. To encourage transparency, all members must confirm the accuracy of the loan issue before the loan issuance meeting breaks up. This avoids any misunderstandings down the road.

Throughout the long day Moses exhibits his characteristic patience, waiting for the ladies to conclude their business so he and Tusabe can get back on their motorbikes for the two-hour journey home. When WMI starts a new loan hub one of the first orders of business is buying some plastic chairs because we know it takes awhile to manage every step in the loan process properly!
Adult Numeracy and Literacy Classes

Working with our local community partners and the British NGO, WTWT, WMI is helping provide literacy and numeracy classes for women in loan groups in Maasai communities outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), in the Moduli District of Tanzania. Most women here only speak their local language. The literacy classes are teaching them to speak, understand, read, and write Swahili, which helps them with their businesses, sales and record keeping, as does the numeracy training. The ladies enjoy the classes, do their classwork diligently, and are progressing well.
Partnering with Sun24 to Make Three-Stone Cooking More Efficient

In the villages where WMI works, many women cook over open fires surrounded by three, large stones, with firewood or sometimes charcoal as fuel. The adverse consequences of this practice are enormous: every year millions are sickened or die from smoke inhalation, children (typically girls) spend hours each day searching for fuel and are subject to sexual
assault, and the open-fire cookstoves give off many climate-damaging emissions.
There is a simple solution to this problem: placing small stones and a metal grate under the fire. The fire burns more efficiently, reducing by more than 50% the amount of firewood used and smoke emitted.

The non-profit Sun 24 partnered with WMI in a pilot program to provide training and grates at one of our loan hubs so the ladies could learn the technique. Ladies report they are using the grates and stones in daily cooking with positive results.

We will conduct a survey in 60 days and if there is significant impact then we will expand the program to more women and other loan hubs. We are grateful to Sun 24 for collaborating with WMI on this program to improve basic household living conditions for women and their families. website
Demand for Loans and Re-training Surge
After halting loan issuance for six months, WMI began issuing loans again in October 2020. We are experiencing very strong demand now for both new loans and follow-up loans as ladies get back to regular business operations. We have already held two loan issues in our largest hub in Buyobo this year. Because of disruptions caused by the corona virus, our local leaders have organized re-training events for borrowers seeking follow-up loans to re-start or expand their businesses. Hundreds of borrowers are seeking more skills training and refresher courses on record-keeping.

Olive Wolimbwa, our local director, reports that the borrowers are extremely attentive during the sessions. Our staff is composed of experienced teachers and Olive described to us how the team keeps the trainings lively and informative:
“Methods used during the training were mainly discussion and drama. We dramatized following up a defaulter trying to escape and we also dramatized the sin of multiple borrowing. Borrowers liked it very much because it reflected the real things which borrowers do. They laughed and whispered that, 'Yes, these are the real things which we do in our real lives.'”
“The borrowers participated fully and advised fellow borrowers on how to go about it. In the training there were some men who represented their wives, these men were grateful and appreciated WMI for embracing women. One said, ‘Women are not well advantaged in terms of land, which can be used as collateral to get a bank loan. This means women have no means to access credit. Here is WMI which gives them loans without collateral. Many men have neglected responsibilities in their families. Women are the ones responsible for providing food in the house, struggle with children’s school fees, and medication and make sure things go well in the family. So thank you WMI for giving loans to the women.’”
As with any all-day event in the village, a meal is always served. Olive reported that the ladies did not want to break from training during the meal. They sat down and continued to listen attentively as the discussions continued until twilight.
Girl’s Empowerment Program -- A Success Story
During the past year, WMI has partnered with Rukundo International to provide a girl’s empowerment and entrepreneurship program (GEEP) to hundreds of young ladies in seven, under-resourced, primary
schools in southwest Uganda. With schools closed due to the pandemic, the risk of sexual exploitation, underage marriages, early pregnancies, and lost academic ground increased dramatically for these pre-teens and teen-agers. The Covid pandemic disproportionately affected girls in sub-Saharan Africa. UNESCO reported that adolescent pregnancy threatens to block a million girls across this region from returning to school. Article
The GEEP has an activity-based curriculum, as well as workbooks and entrepreneurship trainings and projects to deliver key messages and start conversations that promote healthy, responsible behavior. WMI funded teachers, trainings, workbooks, enterprise stock, seedlings and materials.

Parents were engaged as well – they supported their daughters’ participation in structured activities while schools were shut down.
The program included a pre-test, workbook distributions/collections/follow-up testing, parent meetings, entrepreneurship orientation, enterprise project training, final impact assessment and graduation. The girls started agricultural projects growing cabbages, onions, beans, green pepper, and greens; poultry projects raising, hens, rabbits, and ducks; and, handicraft, projects making mats, baskets and tablecloths. One of our goals was for the girls to be able to experience a sense of their own accomplishments through the enterprise projects they launched. The results were impressive; a few projects included:
Expressing appreciation for the year long program, Caroline’s father told us: “I was scared about my girl due to long holiday as a result of COVID 19 pandemic. We live in an area that is exposed to many risks that may disrupt young girls but ever since my girl received workbooks and cabbage seedlings, she has been busy in her works which helped her go through this difficult time successfully. Her concentration on both books and digging has changed. She has grown cabbages and is rearing rabbits. She used the money got from cabbages to buy a goat and also sold 2 rabbits to buy scholastic supplies when she was
reporting back for her new term.”
In Rubanda District, where the program operated, more than 1,000 girls were reportedly pregnant during the school closings according to the Uganda health department. Across all seven schools where the GEEP program was implemented, we had 0% pregnancy reports, which is a big achievement for the girls, their families, all partner schools, our local non-profit partner Rukundo, and WMI. At their program graduation ceremony, the girls sang and danced and enjoyed celebrating their successes.
Student Spotlight - Izabella
“I received a rabbit to start a project. This rabbit gave me four more. I sold each and I generated chicken. I now have 4 which include 1 cock and 3 chicks. When they produce, I want to buy a piglet. I chose to rear rabbits and chicks because they are cheap to maintain and have ready market.

I have learnt new things like owning a business, abstaining from sex, resisting pressure and avoiding free gifts. My favorite thing about GEEP is giving me hope for the future through providing me with startup materials to start rabbit project and learning how to make money. I will train my sister and any other person willing to learn new things in order to change lives of others like how mine was changed.”

WMI is extremely grateful to our donors - you make WMI's work possible. Thank you for your thoughtfulness in supporting WMI's program to empower rural women and families in East Africa. Your support is truly making a difference.
The WMI Board of Directors 
 Robyn Nietert   Betsy Gordon  Deborah Smith  Jane Erickson 
   Terry Ciccotelli   Trix Vandervossen  June Kyakobye