September/October 2015            




          donate          visit our website


In This Update...

  • WMI Expands Loan Program in Tanzania
  • IMF Director, Christine Lagarde, Visits the WMI Booth at Annual Charity Fair
  • Postbank (PBU) Managing Director Discusses Women in Business
  • PBU Congratulates WMI Partner in Kabale
  • The Buyobo Pavilion Is Finished and Open for Business


WMI Expands Loan Program in Tanzania
This fall WMI expanded loan program operations in Tanzania through a partnership with Weston Turville Wells for Tanzania (WTWT), a charity based in the United Kingdom. The organization was founded by and is run by Rachel Blackmore. It was started in 2005 to provide outreach service to three villages in Nainokanoka Ward in northern Tanzania, on the plateau surrounding the Ngorongoro Crater (which is an immensely popular tourist destination). Rachel provided this background on the local community, a summary of WTWT's operations, and a description of how it came to develop a woman-focused loan program. You'll find the evolution fascinating!

Background. WTWT is a small poverty relief charity working with Maasai communities li ving in the
Maasai children collecting water at a WTWT facility
Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We are based in the UK but charge no UK expenses to the charity. Our 4 paid staff, 2 men and 2 women, are all local Maasai from the 3 villages we currently serve in Nainokanoka Ward. There are  many destitute families in the area, particularly those families without livestock.

In 2009, the Tanzania Conservation Area Authority banned the Maasai from growing their life-sustaining vegetables. Since this time, many children have died, being too malnourished to fight common illnesses.  WTWT supports the community with programs providing clean water solutions, goats for the destitute, education, health care and microfinance loans. Education has been in the form of secondary school funding and building of preschools for the children to learn the language of their primary education, Swahili.

Our Loan Program. WTWT started its loan program in 2012, after meeting Judy Lane, WMI's local partner who was doing similar work to WTWT, but in the neighbouring villages of Alailelai Ward. Judy introduced us to WMI and their amazing training and loan program. WMI kindly invited myself and our staff to attend their loan training in Alailelai. Following this we discussed partnering with WMI on a loan program in Nainokanoka Ward. Our Tanzanian Coordinator, at that stage, was unwilling to operate a loan program just for women and felt we could run our own program on similar lines to that of WMI and also include men in the community. WMI staff supported our plans. They very kindly provided business training in our villages and allowed us to use similar paperwork to run our program, although WMI did not provide funds for loans as our program included men.

WTWT provided the funds for our loans, which initially covered five groups of women and one group of men. All of the loans were paid back on time, thanks to the dedication of our loan project manager, Embapa (one of our male staffers), in meeting regularly with the loan beneficiaries until they were confident and competent in running their businesses. There was a lot of friction amongst the men in the men's group, and more work was needed to ensure their loans were paid back on time. We expanded the program over the next two years, to a total of 115 loans being given to women and 33 to men over the three year period.

WTWT women making last loan payment at support group meeting and happily receiving the money they saved during the loan term
Loan Program Results and Findings. The 2014-2015 women's loans have all been paid back. Embapa is just working with the families of the last men's group who have not yet made their final loan repayment. They are extremely poor and the men have run off. The market situation was not good in the village and they were not able to sell their cattle at the market the day before the loan repayment date. Embapa has visited the mothers of the men and they are requesting a few more months to repay the loans.

WTWT's leadership, with Embapa as our new Country Coordinator in Tanzania, has reviewed its operating history and with three years of experience under our belt, WTWT has decided, based on the evidence, that we only want to give loans to women. We are delighted to be able to partner fully with WMI at last! We are also hugely grateful to WMI for supporting our loan recipient women with additional loan funds and financing for a health education program. We are grateful that WMI fully supports WTWT's philosophy that healthy women will make for healthy businesses and healthy families!

IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, Visits the WMI Booth at Charity Fair
In September, WMI was invited to organize an information booth and discuss its outreach program at the IMF as the Fund kicked off its 2015 Fall Giving Campaign. WMI Board member, Trix Vandervossen, who
Trix and her granddaughter staffing the WMI booth at the IMF event
works at the IMF, organized WMI's presentation (ably assisted by her granddaughter, Harper). During the event, IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, was drawn to our posters and biographies of the village women we serve and she took the time to engage Trix in a lengthy discussion of WMI's mission, goals and program results. She was very supportive of WMI's approach to microfinance and the success we have achieved to date.
Trix also mentioned to Madame Lagarde that WMI's legal work is handled pro bono by Baker and MacKenzie in New York, through the efforts of partner Rob Lewis. Madame Lagarde was delighted that her former law firm - where she had worked during her legal career - was contributing to advance business formation and skills training for poor women in developing countries. We heard that the following week Madame Lagarde was seated next to Baker and MacKenzie's managing partner at a charity event in NYC. When he introduced himself she took the time to complement him on the efforts of his partner, Rob Lewis, to support financial inclusion for village women in East Africa. As you can imagine, we were delighted that our loan program made an impression with one the financial sector's leading experts!  

Postbank Managing Director Discusses Women in Business

PBU's Managing Director, Stephen Mukweli, meeting with WMI President, Robyn Nietert in Washington, D.C.
Stephen Mukweli, Managing Director of WMI's partner financial institution, Postbank Uganda (PBU), recently travelled to Washington, D.C. for the annual global community banking conference. During his trip he had time to visit with WMI President, Robyn Nietert, and discuss the outlook for women in the workforce in Uganda.
Mr. Mukweli observed that women are coming up in established businesses in Uganda. As staff members he finds that they are focused and dedicated to their work, with a strong motivation to develop the areas they supervise. In this dedication he observes that they seem to generally have an edge over men. Right now about 40% of the middle management positions in the banking sector are held by women. He believes that a woman has an equal chance as a man in stepping up as the next managing director of PBU.
In Uganda, 30% of public office positions are set aside for women. The ratio of women to men attending the universities in the country is narrowing, with women now composing 45% of the student body. In the future, they will likely hold a greater number of public positions as increasing numbers of women graduate from university.
Working with the WMI loan program for over five years now, Mr. Mukweli has seen great strides in the development of the women in Buyobo. After watching the video we featured this summer on Penina's School, he was struck by the depth of impact the loan program has had in Buyobo and the surrounding communities. He is continually impressed with WMI's success in training, motivating and supporting village women in business.
Along these lines, Mr. Mukweli noted that many of PBU's non-WMI customers lack sufficient financial literacy skills to manage their money effectively.   He hopes to submit a proposal in the near future for WMI trainers to develop a program to train other PBU customers who need to develop financial management skills.   This is quite a compliment to our Buyobo staff! They have taken the lead in preparing highly effective training materials and techniques and now have a track record of success!
PBU Honors Members of WMI's Kabale Loan Partner


Earlier this month, PBU's Kabale branch organized a small ceremony to thank WMI's CBO partner in Kabale, E. Lushaya Women's Group (ELWG), for its professional operation and good banking practices. The new branch manager, Asaba Augustine, made a speech indicating that the branch had selected to recognize customers who are setting high standards. ELWG was presented with a certificate of commendation by the Branch Manager.  Our CBO partner was very pleased to have been singled out by the bank for this honor. It is not often that a village-level women's organization receives this type of recognition!

PBU staff and members of WMI's CBO partner in Kabale, Uganda, the E. Lushaya Women's Group, cut cake at ceremony honoring our CBO members


Buyobo Pavilion Finished and Fully Oprational

The finishing touches have been completed on the Buyobo meeting pavilion and it is now in full use by our loan partner, the Buyobo Women's Association. Training for the October loan groups took place in the pavilion, which can accommodate 500 people. Bi-weekly loan collection now takes place in the pavilion. With over 1500 borrowers in the Buyobo area, the women are overjoyed to be able to utilize the spacious hall - overflow loan groups are no longer forced to sit and wait in the sun and heat while loan repayments are processed.
Thank you so much to the Cordes Foundation and Towards Sustainability Foundation for major funding for the pavilion construction!




Thank you all for your continued support!



The WMI Board of Directors


Robyn Nietert          rgnietert@aol.com  

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

June Kyakobye        jgkyakobye@yahoo.com

Trix Vandervossen   bvandervossen@imf.org 

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