• 2021 Fact Book Documents Improvements in WMI Households

  • Check Out the New WMI Videos

  • Meet WMI's Summer Interns

  • Fans of BTS Raise Funds for WMI

  • Improving Women's Health Outcomes in Tanzania

  • WMI Businesses in Kenya Rebound
Corona virus update:

June ushered in a second wave of corona virus infections in Uganda that forced the re-imposition of lock down measures, restricting transport and business operations. Some of the measures were lifted at the end of July, although schools will remain closed until more people are vaccinated. This creates an extremely precarious situation for millions of primary school students and their working mothers. Just over one million Ugandans, roughly 2% of the 44 million population, have been vaccinated. Uganda is now using a multi-pronged approach, purchasing vaccine from a variety of sources in addition to receiving doses from COVAX.

Kenya has set a target of vaccinating 10 million of its 55 million people by the end of the year. With over 1.5 million vaccinated with the Astrazeneca vaccine, Kenya moved nearer to its goal when it received nearly one million Moderna doses donated by the US in mid-August. New cases continue to rise in Kenya, particularly in the west, and mainly of the Delta variant. A 7 pm until 4 am curfew continues to be in effect. The government is discouraging travel to the western region, with all public transportation limited to 60% capacity. 

Breaking with the policies of former President John Magufuli, who died of Covid-related causes in March, Tanzania’s new administration, headed by his former deputy Samia Suluhu Hassan, has initiated a vaccination program. In July, Hassan received the Johnson & Johnson shot in a televised event, jump-starting a public inoculation campaign. She urged the country of more than 58 million people to trust the vaccination process. The US recently delivered more than 1 million doses to Tanzania to initiate the country’s vaccine drive.  
2021 Fact Book Documents Improvements in Household Living Conditions for WMI Borrowers and Their Families
Improved incomes, increased savings, more food, and affordable access to medical care were all highlights of the findings in WMI’s 2021 Fact Book. Reporting the results of thousands of surveys and interviews, the 2021 Fact Book documents how the loan program continues to improve household living conditions for borrowers and their families. 

Despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic, WMI businesswomen were able to continue to operate their enterprises and generate income to benefit their families. Check out the results that have been made possible by your generous donations and on-going support! Fact Book
Check Out the New WMI Videos

Steering the loan program through the pandemic and helping rural women stay in business, despite the disruptions of multiple lock downs, has required our local leadership to be resourceful, compassionate and very strategic. WMI’s executive team in East Africa, led by Olive Wolimbwa (left), who is Chair of our local partner Buyobo Women's Association, has worked tirelessly throughout the crisis. They have made sure that vital loan issuances occur on schedule and ensured that training and support continue to be available to rural women entrepreneurs. This summer our interns captured the impact of the pandemic on village businesses in the newest video posted to the WMI web site. VIDEO

The interns also captured the enthusiasm and progress of the dozens of students who have joined our popular WMI Table Tennis Club. It is remarkable to see how such a small program can have such a big impact on the village. VIDEO
Meet WMI’s 2021 Remote Summer Interns

Cindy Matsiko is a rising junior at University of Maryland Baltimore County and is returning for her second summer internship WMI, this year as the manger for the internship projects. Cindy also took over creating the content for WMI's media platforms. She is studying Psychology, Africana studies, and will also obtain an Elementary Education certificate.
Lyndsay White is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, where she is studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience, leading to a career creating a more accessible and equitable global healthcare system. She is involved with UM's Science Learning Center as a Peer Facilitator as well as her national honor fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi. 

Molly McPhaul is currently a sophomore at Belmont University in Nashville, TN, studying Music Business, with an emphasis on production. Her work has been released on Spotify and she has a track on Chillhop's Summer Essentials mixtape. She has a passion for all things creative and is using her talents to enhance WMI’s visual display and media platforms.
Gabby Ostoyich is a rising senior at Boston University, where she majors in International Relations. She is involved in BU's Leading Women of Tomorrow club and also tutors students in English. She intends to pursue a career in foreign service or public policy and is particularly interested in humanitarian crisis management and refugee rehabilitation.

Cary Moore is a rising sophomore at Princeton University, where she is a prospective economics major. She tutors incarcerated young people working toward their GEDs and participates in the Princeton Asylum Project. During her internship, she hopes to learn how to maximize the community impact of micro-investment initiatives.
BTS Fans Raise Funds for WMI

Declared the biggest band in the world in the June issue of Rolling Stone magazine, BTS, the Korean Boy Band phenomenon, has a cadre of loyal fans who call themselves OneInAnArmy. In an ongoing campaign of global outreach, the Army conducts fundraising campaigns for selected non-profits to coincide with BTS career milestones. 

To honor the band’s eighth anniversary this past June, the Army selected WMI for their fundraising donations.  Small contributions poured in from around the world and we are delighted to report that the campaign raised nearly $9,000 for the WMI loan program. Thank you to BTS, the Army, and the thousands of fans who donated to WMI for this wonderful show of support! 
Improving Health Outcomes for Women and Children in Tanzania

Life in a Maasai Village in Tanzania is never easy but WMI’s goal is to help level the economic playing field for the women who live there. To amplify the loan program’s impact, WMI works in conjunction with other local organizations, such as a school or health clinic, that are providing services in the village. 

Recently, WMI made a small grant to Naiborr Omom Initiatives (NOI) in Nainokanoka Village in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area near Arusha, Tanzania, to fund three community health interpreters (including Selina, above) who assist at the Health Center and local dispensaries. Most of our village women speak only Maa, the local language, while the health professionals speak only Swahili. This language barrier discouraged our borrowers from seeking natal health care and increased the likelihood a woman would give birth at home, far from emergency medical care. When the women did seek medical care, they reported feeling intimidated by the health care professionals. Because of these negative experiences, many Maasai women would not use the services at the health clinic.

In the four months since the interpreters started working, the village has seen a huge improvement in understanding health care needs. In addition to providing one-on-one interpreting, they go out into the community to provide health classes, especially pre- and post-natal education (below). They also initiated a school-based program to provide students with health care education that they, in turn, share with their parents.
This service has played an important role in changing attitudes. We are already seeing:

  • Families understanding the problems associated with the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) and publicly pledging not to cut their daughters. 
  • Young men pledging to marry an uncut girl now that the stigma of being uncut has been reduced.
  • A 66% increase in the number of women going to the health center to give birth due to improved trust between the NOI team, health workers and the community.
  • An increase from 12 women/month to 100 women/month in family planning counseling.
  • Women report they feel empowered and gender-based violence has been reduced.
  • Women are adding fruit, vegetables, and nutritious grains to their diets to reduce complications resulting from deficiencies in iron and folic acid. 
  • Women have learned that undereating to keep a baby small for an easier delivery is not good for either the mother or the child.

Healthier women are more able to run successful businesses. WMI is gratified that such a small investment has had such a huge impact on the community and strengthened the loan program as well.  Small community engagements can result in improved outcomes across the board.
WMI Businesses in Kenya Rebound
The Kenyan economy relies heavily on tourism and agricultural/horticultural exports, all of which have fallen substantially due to the pandemic. In many households, income generated by women’s businesses is supplemented by a household member’s ancillary income from one of these sectors. With the formal economy slow to recover from the virus’ impact, there is more pressure on our rural women entrepreneurs to provide for the family’s needs.

In central Kenya, rural business operations were immensely impacted by the pandemic. Our members’ small enterprises like restaurants, second-hand clothing stores, and hairdressing shops had to shut down at certain points to comply with the government’s containment measures. All of the businesses experienced a drop in profit margins. Women wondered if they would be able to reopen successfully. The uncertain economic situation caused widespread anxiety and stress. 

In response, WMI and its local partner, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, conducted counseling sessions to provide women with coping skills. The women were encouraged to restart their businesses with resources WMI provided and to use diversification strategies to maximize profits. Women were also encouraged to maintain a healthy work/life balance to give them a measured perspective on the current situation. Counseling sessions were conducted with the solidarity groups scheduled to receive loan disbursements.

Improvements in business operations have been steady throughout 2021. The loan repayment rate has grown each month from 57.7% in January to 71% in June, a clear indication that the businesses are restocked and reviving. Shops, market stalls and farm stands are featuring more products. Women’s business incomes are again providing cash flow to cover family needs like school fees, medical care, and home improvements.

This empowerment has opened up avenues for women to have a voice on development issues within their community, and several of our loan group leaders were selected to join the Community Development Committee – the highest governing body in the community. We are cautiously optimistic about continued improvements in business operations throughout 2021 and a return to "normalcy" for loan program operations..

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 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