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  • Preparing the Next Generation of WMI Businesswomen and Local Leaders

  • University Students Study WMI's Methodology

  • Tanzania Loan Hub in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Adds Hundreds of New Borrowers

  • WMI Trainers Travel to Northern Kenya to Train Samburu Women Pastoralists

  • Construction on New Headquarters in Uganda Reaches the Roof

Country Updates:

Uganda. The conflict in Sudan is beginning to impact the country's economy. Uganda exports 92 million dollars a year in tea, coffee, spices and other products to Sudan. Sellers are now looking for alternate markets as transportation becomes risky and Sudanese customers are unable to access capital. A landlocked country, Uganda also depends on imports from Sudan that arrive at its port on the Red Sea. Additionally, refugees from the conflict are crossing into the camps in Uganda. The warring Sudanese parties recently agreed to a seven day cease fire to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians but no permanent cease fire plans have been announced.

Kenya. The economy continues to recover and is set to expand this year despite the drought that continues in the northeast section of the country. The World Bank announced it will invest 390 million dollars to implement the Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Project, which will expand access to high speed internet and improve the delivery of educational and government services. Hopefully, this will benefit village women and families who do not have reliable internet access.

Tanzania. The first recorded outbreak of Marburg's, a deadly hemorrhagic virus similar to Ebola, was confirmed by the World Health Organization to have occurred in northeast Tanzania this spring. Five people in the region have died and contact tracing is being implemented. In good news, Vice-President Harris visited the country this spring and announced 500 million in financing to help US companies export goods to Tanzania. She met with President Hassan and the photos of the these powerful women were an inspiration to the ladies in the loan program.

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WMI's Local Director, Olive Wolimbwa, (above, left) and Assistant Local Director, Jacqueline Namonye, (above, right) have had a profound impact on young women throughout WMI's loan hubs in East Africa. They are inspirations, role models and coaches, always encouraging young entrepreneurs to learn basic financial lessons and develop business skills. To understand how young women who are surrounded by strong, successful rural businesswomen view their future we asked Olive's and Jackie's daughters to share their stories with us.

Introducing Tomorrow's Rural Businesswomen

Charity Mirembe (22) and Liz Mwebaze (21), daughters of WMI’s Assistant Local Director, Jackie Namonye, shared their views on the WMI loan program and future plans. (In Ugandan culture, children frequently chose their own surname, as did Charity and Liz, the first selecting a word that means peace and the later one that means gratitude).

After Mom joined WMI, she started her first business and quickly became an assistant administrator for the loan program – she did this while continuing to teach. The following year WMI built its office in the village and we loved going there - we called it the bank. It was so different from our home and other village houses because it was made from bricks.

Things began to change in our household. We both went to a better school. We were given pocket money to buy little personal items. Recently, looking through old photo albums, we saw how mom’s appearance improved over the years. It is very noticeable. She began to dress better and looked less tired and worn out. In our view, she was simply relieved and became a happy mom after joining WMI.

Several years ago mom was offered a better teaching job further away from Buyobo in Karamoja, and there was also a head teacher job for dad, in a very well-funded private school. But mom said she could not leave her colleagues and her work with WMI – her heart was with WMI. We stayed and with savings Dad and some partners opened a new primary school where he now works.

After Mom joined WMI, she started her first business and quickly became an assistant administrator for the loan program – she did this while continuing to teach. The following year WMI built its office in the village and we loved going there - we called it the bank. It was so different from our home and other village houses because it was made from bricks.

Things began to change in our household. We both went to a better school. We were given pocket money to buy little personal items. Recently, looking through old photo albums, we saw how mom’s appearance improved over the years. It is very noticeable. She began to dress better and looked less tired and worn out. In our view, she was simply relieved and became a happy mom after joining WMI.

Several years ago mom was offered a better teaching job further away from Buyobo in Karamoja, and there was also a head teacher job for dad, in a very well-funded private school. But mom said she could not leave her colleagues and her work with WMI – her heart was with WMI. We stayed and with savings Dad and some partners opened a new primary school where he now works.

Our mom has pushed us to achieve. She has constantly searched for better schools and opportunities for us and our three brothers. Watching her become so successful, we have been confident in making plans for ourselves. Two of our brothers are studying civil engineering and the last one is studying accounting. We are so proud of our mom and what she has accomplished.

We do not want to have small lives. We do not want to focus on settling down and getting married at this young age. We want to be part of changing the system and attitudes.

Charity - I am in my second year at Makerere University, studying pre-med to become a doctor. I intend to look for local scholarships and am also considering studying abroad on scholarship to ease the financial stress on my family. I want to do a small business like a shop or selling soap to help pay for school. I feel that I am born to do something so big that people will talk about it!

Liz – I am waiting for my exit exam results to see where I will go to university in September but I have been performing well at school so am confident my scores will be high. I want to be a lawyer - which is a 4-year course of study, followed by additional training to appear in court, and then I hope to study for a Ph.D. My dream is to be a human rights lawyer and I am very positive I will be able to get a job in that field, whether here in Uganda or abroad.

In addition to their studies, Charity and Liz handle household chores. Liz is the cook in the family while Charity can be counted on for clean-up. Talking with these two highly motivated young ladies provided fresh insight into the myriad ways the WMI program is empowering women, young and old, to set goals for themselves and focus on behaviors that turn their future visions into reality.  

Stepping Into The Role Of WMI's Local Financial Manager

Born and raised in Buyobo, Uganda, 29 year old Milly Walimbwa is WMI’s Local Financial Manager – and so much more! Tech wizard for our balky lap tops, photographer, speech-writer, liaison to partner NGOs, agency banking expert, and locator of lost items: Milly Walimbwa does it all with precision, grace and confidence. A teenager when her mom helped start WMI in 2008, Milly was always by her side, a trusted and able assistant, watching, helping, learning, as WMI expanded. 

Upon successfully completing her B.A. in Finance at Makerere University in June 2016, Milly joined WMI’s executive team and is currently pursuing her CPA certification while she works and cares for her charming baby boy, Levi, born this past September. Milly’s duties include: preparing financial reports, implementing financial controls, tracking organizational expenses, annual budgeting, bank reconciliation, managing organizational relationships with loan hubs, bankers, auditors, government regulatory bodies and overseeing agency banking.

Milly shared how she decided to work with WMI and described how her involvement has impacted her:

Whenever I used to go back to school, the WMI president (Robyn) used to give me a lift to university in Kampala on her way back from Buyobo. I saw how committed she was and the help WMI was giving mothers to touch the girls. Once Robyn asked my mum whether I would want to work in the village because most girls prefer working in towns. But I prefer the close network of a community.

WMI gave me an offer for a finance job immediately after I completed my studies. First, it was just a miracle to get a job immediately after school because most companies in Uganda ask for work experience. Secondly, my mum used to pay my school fees with business profits made possible by loans from WMI. When the offer was given to me, I accepted it immediately because I wanted to give back to WMI for supporting me to reach this far in my studies and to the community and to inspire other young people to work hard. Much as I had many chances of getting a job at Post Bank because I had done my internship from there, I preferred the WMI job because I wanted WMI to grow to support many other ladies who would support other young people, especially the girls.

Interacting with so many other professionals from the different organizations that WMI works with like our bankers, auditors, government offices and others has broadened my experience and network. I am appreciated and known in the community – attending local events like church services, graduations, burials, and market days, it is just so surprising how many people greet me and that makes me grateful to be a part of WMI.

Supporting Loan Hub Operations in Tanzania

Nearly three hours from Arusha, Tanzania is the small town of Karatu, which is the base for the WMI loan program in the surrounding villages. Operated by village women who are leaders in the community, this loan hub benefits from the technical support provided by our resident resource fellow, who shared her journey to WMI.

My name is Jane John Masila I was born in Tanga, Tanzania in 04th July 1993. My tribe is Chagga from the Machame, Kilimanjaro region. I am single but I have one beautiful daughter, named Delice David. In 2017, I received a bachelor degree of Accountancy from Institute of Accountancy Arusha (IAA).

While in school, I completed an internship at the Regional Commissioner’s Office in Arusha, providing support for administrative and financial operations. It is difficult to get a salaried job in Tanzania and after graduation, from 2018 – 2020, I was interning at Amboni Plantation Limited in Tanga to obtain experience in operations management, monthly financial reports and reconciling financial issues.

Since 2020, I have been working with WMI by assisting the village women who manage the Karatu loan hub with developing systems operations and resources, record-keeping and budgeting, government liaison, collaborations with other NGOs and banks, and loan collections tracking and reporting. My role applies the operational and technical skills I have learned to the extensive outreach services the local leadership team has put in place and expanded over the years.

I decided to work with WMI because I believe that everyone should have equal opportunities regardless of their social background. Also, I really admire WMI’s work with vulnerable communities and all the projects WMI has undertaken, plus the fact that WMI only serves women from rural areas who the government mostly forgets and ignores. Helping young ladies and elderly women learn new things and expand their knowledge to combat poverty through their businesses, both large and small, has always been my passion.

Bridging the Atlantic from Baltimore to Buyobo

As the daughter of a WMI board member (June Kyakobye) I have been lucky enough to see WMI grow from the beginning. At eight years old, I traveled with my mom and WMI President, Robyn Nietert, and her family, for the launching of the loan program in Buyobo, Uganda in 2008. Although I don’t remember much about the specifics of the launch, I do remember all the hard work that was going on around me and all the excitement in the community. Seeing how it started from a few benches under a makeshift awning to a two-story building with offices, conference rooms and agency banking facilities is pretty amazing.

Recently, I graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County where I majored in Psychology and minored in Africana Studies and Social Welfare.

As an intern and media manager with WMI for the past three years, I have seen all of the behind the scenes impacts of WMI, particularly the stories of how WMI has changed the lives of women and their families - how so many things the ladies thought were impossible are now possible. My family’s involvement WMI has definitely inspired my interest in the empowerment of vulnerable populations that are so often exploited.

My grandmother, Edith Mafabi, grew up in the Buyobo community and I therefore get a constant, firsthand reminder of what it was like before WMI. The empowerment of the women goes further than just their families, it inspires the communities they live in to achieve. Personally, I have witnessed the growth in the women in terms of confidence, problem-solving, decision-making, participation in meetings, innovating ideas, and taking charge of situations and problems. It is a testament to the tremendous impact of a small, rigorously managed program that invests in empowering the community to manage the program themselves and provides the resources the community itself identifies as critical to their development goals.

Cindy Matsiko as an 8-year old mischief-maker and ringleader of village kids in 2008, while her mom confers with Olive Wolimbwa on the first 20 loans to be issued by WMI in Buyobo, Uganda.

University Students Study WMI's Methodology

My name is Anoushka Leijnse and I am currently in my first year of studying international development management at Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands. For a class project entitled, “analyzing an organization”, we were advised to “find an organization that is inspirational for you and fits within your areas of interest.”  I was already interested in microfinance so this directive led me to do some online research and I located WMI's web site.

When I began reading about WMI, it very inspiring how the organization differs from normal charity work, as it focuses on providing the needed resources to the local people, not doing the actual work, but teaching the local community how to start businesses and run their own loan program in order to become fully independent. The fact that the organization is run by and for the local community really interests me and was my reason for conducting my analysis. 

I created a visual to assist in explaining to my classmates and professors what makes WMI so special, focusing on the inputs and outcomes. I explained the original internal factors that led to the impressive outcomes for the organization. The professors were very enthusiastic about my choice, as were my classmates, most of whom analyzed large, well-known companies that have a non-voluntary staff. But they were inspired by the outcomes of WMI and were amazed the organization has an entirely voluntary staff in the US. This is one factor that makes WMI so special and a big reason why more and more people should know about WMI to support even more loans and improve the lives for more village families. 


I would like to thank WMI and Robyn for giving me the opportunity to hear about her experiences and get a better insight into your organization that I was able to share with classmates. I hope I can someday visit your headquarters in Buyobo and maybe in the future can contribute to this inspirational work.

Maasai Women in Tanzania Expand Loan Groups and Program Operations

WMI partners with a British NGO and an indigenous organization to operate loan groups servicing Maasai women in five wards in Tanzania’s National Conservation Area: Nainokanoka, Alailelai, Naiyobi, Esilaiei and Ngolie. Extensive government regulations restrict business operations there and make it difficult for the local communities to generate income. Nevertheless, with eight dedicated local coordinators providing training and support, the women’s groups are thriving. 

Just over 2,000 women are currently participating in the program. WMI decided to expand operations in this region because of the enormous positive impact and growing demand for services, thus this Spring we allocated funds to provide loans and training for 415 additional village women in the region. During the first quarter of 2023, our local management teams provided the following summary on the program's progress:


We are happy to report that the WMI loan and business training program has transformed lives and communities across the five wards. It supports the main community objectives of reducing poverty and fighting our three enemies of ignorance, poverty, and disease


Participants agree that the knowledge and the skills they acquired through the WMI loans and training has helped them to start and expand their businesses. The women use the funds wisely despite the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) restrictions and have started up and own their businesses, creating self-employment. This program has led to a great improvement in participants’ household incomes, which has helped families meet their basic needs such as food, education and health service through payment for National Health Insurance (NHI).

Businesses established by the women:

  • Maize business
  • Goat business
  • Second hands clothes business
  • Retail shops and vegetable stalls
  • Beading business
  • Restaurants
  • Farming activities

Women sell produce and grains frequently at small markets located in the villages. When they get together on market days they talk about their businesses and share experiences. One of the big impacts of the loan program is women consulting one another on how to solve problems.

SUSTAINABILITY - In terms of sustainability, most businesses started are still in operation and any businesses that were not working switched to something successful as taught in the WMI training. The training uses different memorable slogans such as:

  • Not to eat the seed (the loan)
  • Money speaks in the pocket, do not listen
  • Illness does not make an appointment
  • My business is my reputation

This training and their successes have given the women pride in their achievements and encouragement to continue to perform well and expand their businesses.


Village communities are actively supporting local initiatives. We see this as a clear sign that the model makes leaders who are capable of bringing about real and lasting changes within their own communities. Beneficiaries also report on how their attitudes change from feeling inferior to feeling confident as women in their families and communities. They are now capable of planning and organizing and they actively contribute their views towards development of the whole community.


The numeracy and literacy education in each ward continues well and has been invaluable and necessary for the success of the loan program due to the difficult situation of most of the women not having had the benefit of any formal education before.


WMI has been funding adult numeracy and literacy classes in all the wards where we have issued loans, enabling the women who have businesses to learn Swahili and be able to keep their written and numerical records.

The teams operate in different ways depending upon local facilities. Some lessons are given in classrooms in the primary schools and others given during the loan group meetings outside, which presents its own challenges.


  • High amounts of profit were obtained, increasing family resources
  • Savings rates have increased;
  • Trainings were provided throughout the year focusing on: business skills, price fluctuations and profit-making;
  • Vibrant, newly-formed groups have progressed well;
  • The provision of these loans has stimulated the local markets, due to a higher circulation of money;
  • The women show increased confidence and are empowered by their decision-making and planning skills;
  • The adult education in numeracy and literacy increases the women’s confidence and skills in managing their businesses and record keeping;
  • Borrowers report health improvements as they apply lessons learned from the health education classes and they can afford to purchase health insurance.


  • Climatic changes have worsened the economic situations of Maasai herders around the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and beyond to Esilalei due to drought;
  • Price increases due to the rise of cost of living in Tanzania;
  • Registration of loan groups is now required by the government which takes time and money;
  • The cost of transport has increased due to increases in the cost of fuel;
  • Illiteracy is still a challenge as it takes a long time to learn to read, write in the new language of Swahili (most women speak Maa) and to learn mathematical skills;
  • Patriarchal dominance continues to limit some women's freedom in their businesses.

WMI is confident that by continuing to collaborate with our non-profit partner in Britain (WTWT) and by supporting our excellent management team in the villages, we will be able to overcome the current challenges and continue to expand our services with the determined Maasai women in Tanzania. The strong local team is a critical key to the success of this loan hub program and WMI is grateful for the commitment and dedication of: Embapa Runguna, Maria Mirumu, Kisiaya Saruni  Kinyanjui, Sunguyo Sindiyo, Sinyati Ngamuriaki, and Supeet Olepurko.

Providing Business Skills Training for Samburu Women in Northern Kenya

Working to protect the environment, wildlife and rights of indigenous people in the Namunyuk Conservancy, which covers 850,000 acres of wilderness in northern Kenya, the Sarara Foundation is bringing mobile healthcare, educational resources, and business opportunities to the Samburu women who inhabit this region. Sarara

Collaborating with the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Sarara organized a program for rural Samburu women, who are pastoralists and expert goatherders, to sell their goat milk to the Sanctuary to nourish the orphaned baby elephants who are cared for until they are strong enough to return to the wild. Reteti

Sarara asked WMI to provide business training for the “Milk Mamas”, as the women involved in the program now call themselves. (Photos curtesy of Sarara Foundation).

Traveling by overnight bus from Buyobo, Uganda to Nairobi and then another 6 hours by mini-van, Olive Wolimbwa, Jackie Namonye and Irene Wetaka, WMI’s most experienced trainers, undertook the journey to Namanyuk to provide their expertise to thirty-seven Samburu women, from 10 different villages, who gathered for the workshop. The WMI trainers covered topics including marketing, record-keeping, saving, how to increase sales through pricing and profit margins. and the importance of educating girl children. Olive emphasized that without an education, she would not be there teaching business-skills to other village women. This peer-to-peer training methodology really resonated with the women. At the end of the training session, the Samburu ladies were presented with WMI's signature red tote bag.

After two exhausting days, the WMI team prepared for the 6- hour mini-van ride to Nairobi and overnight bus back to Uganda.

To their surprise and delight, Jeremy Bastard, a vigorous supporter of the Sarara Foundation, offered the ladies a ride to Nairobi in his 4-seater plane. 

Astonished and nervous in equal parts, WMI’s senior executive team mustered their combined courage and took to the skies for their inaugural plane ride. 

Construction on WMI's New Headquarters Building in Uganda Reaches the Roof

Construction on WMI's new offices in Buyobo, Uganda is proceeding smartly. The main framework for the roof has been installed. The entire building is scheduled to be completed by the summer. As one of the few two-story buildings in Sironko District, the project has draws quite a crowd of onlookers! The daily progress is being followed with great anticipation by WMI's staff and borrowers alike.

Thank you!

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. The pandemic had already created new challenges for rural businesswomen. Persistent drought, regional conflicts, and limited access to resources continue to present challenges to village women. In the face of these difficulties, WMI continues to provide loans, training and resources. WMI remains constant and consistent. Your support is truly a lifeline - you are making a difference in reducing global poverty and improving outcomes for thousands of rural households in East Africa.


The WMI Board of Directors 

 Robyn Nietert   Betsy Gordon  Deborah Smith  Jane Erickson 

   Terry Ciccotelli   Trix Vandervossen  June Kyakobye 

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