September/October  2016                       




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In This Update...

  • WMI Tanzania Staff: Meeting Wherever Village Women Gather
  • Lighting Up the Darkness: Solar Products Outreach and Survey
  • Boda Ambulance on the Move
  • WMI 
    President Attends Fundraising Gala in NYC for Kenya Loan Hub Partner
  • Member of the Wedding
  • Profile of A WMI Jumbo Loan Borrower

WMI Tanzania Staff: Meeting Wherever Village Women Gather

The Ganako Women's Community Organization (GWOCO), WMI's local partner in Tloma, Tanzania, reaches 250 women in five villages in northern Tanzania with the loan program. Though GWOCO's small office in Tloma is its headquarters, in reality, the entire communities serve as their offices. When visiting the villages, the staff relies on schools and village governments to lend meeting spaces, but that doesn't always work out.
A few weeks ago the staff arrived at Gongali Primary School to fill out loan applications for new borrowers. Classes were still in session.  The borrowers were so eager to get started they simply set up on the grass and started their paperwork work right there, undeterred by the pebbles and insects.
On a recent trip to Sumawe to collect a loan installment, the staff and borrowers found themselves locked out of the government office that they usually use. The borrowers confidently led the staff around to a forest clearing behind the office, and held the entire meeting there under the palm trees. A few coins were briefly lost among the dried fronds covering the ground, but they were duly recovered and the rest of the meeting went off without a hitch.
WMI's partners don't always work under ideal conditions, but they do always get their work done. Whether in a borrowed classroom or a forest floor, the ladies of WMI are dedicated and determined!
Lighting Up the Darkness: Solar Products Outreach and Survey
WMI is continuing its outreach and research on solar product initiatives because it is such an important issue for village women and their families. According the in Word Bank, inhaling fumes emitted from kerosene lamps is as damaging to one's health as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.
Given the proximity of houses to each other and the use of mud, straw and grass as building materials, kerosene lamp fires spread rapidly and can cripple communities which are ill-equipped to fight fires.   Unfortunately, most of the women in rural East Africa are still using kerosene lighting sources that are both a major health and safety concern. 

 However, there is good news on the way.   The alternative that many developing countries are starting to turn to is significantly safer and  more effective: solar-powered light. Across all of Africa, it is estimated that over 50 million households have made the switch to solar lighting sources. In addition to the clear health and safety benefits, switching to solar lamps is less expensive in the long-run given their lengthy operating life and efficiency. The problem many households face is that they are more expensive to buy than a kerosene lamp, even though the fuel savings is significant over time. Thus, WMI is proud to collaborate with Sun24, a non-profit working to introduce solar power into village households in Uganda and Kenya, to help loan program members achieve this change-over to solar.
The table below displays information collected from a survey of village women in Buyobo, Uganda regarding lighting sources.  The information about solar's benefits has penetrated to the village level and many women seem well-informed about the benefits of solar.
What type of lighting do you currently use?
Kerosene lamp: 45%
Local candles: 45%
Solar: 10%

Which lighting source would you prefer?
(100% of the women chose solar!)
Kerosene lamp: 0%
Local candles: 0%
Solar: 100%

What is the reason for your preferred lighting alternative?
Saves Money: 76%
Provides Clean Lighting: 53%
Reduces Risk of Fire: 47%
Reduce Fuel-Related Diseases: 38%

Are any of your family members suffering from medical problems caused by your lighting source?

Yes: 51%
Do you think your household would benefit by using a solar-powered lamp?
Yes: 100%

The Boda Ambulance on the Move

The boda ambulance for the Sironko District, purchased through
a fundraising effort by WMI's summer college interns and supported by many longtime WMI donors, is now it full service!

Three boda drivers have been hired, trained and duly awarded driver's licenses (not a small feat in Uganda)!  They practiced by driving one another around the local villages.  Watching the shiny red vehicle with its bright white cross navigate the bumpy dirt roads under the skillful guidance of the specially trained drivers was great advertising for the new emergency service.  The ambulance has already made house calls for emergency illnesses and pregnancies.   

WMI President Attends Fundraising Gala in NYC for Kenya Loan Hub Partner

WMI President, Robyn Nietert, recently attended the annual fundraising gala for Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, held at the Colony Club in NYC.  Operating in north central Kenya, Lewa is a leader in community based conservation, which incorporates local villages into the business plan for operation of wildlife trust lands.  She was able to spend time discussing common goals with Lewa's new Executive Director, Anne Krumme (pictured with Robyn at right) and  Mike Watson, Chief Executive Officer, who had traveled from Kenya to attend the event.

  The villagers benefit from the revenues generated by the resorts and tourist ac tivities on the conservancy.  They become vested in the preservation of their unique wildlife and open range lands where the animals are protected and can flourish.  WMI partners with Lewa to operate loan programs for the women in the  villages surrounding the conservancy.  With local operations embedded in the villages, Lewa has an excellent network for WMI to reach more rural women with capital and business skills training. During Robyn's visit to Lewa earlier this year, she was able to meet with women in the loan program and hear about how the loan program is enabling them to improve their households.

Member of the Wedding

It could not have been a happier occasion! Betty Bigale (in photo at left),  who has been the Head Coordinator for the WMI loan hub in Konokya since it opened in 2010,  was the proud mother of the groom at her son's  wedding this  past summer (pictured at right).  

Married in Konokoya, the wedding was a big celebration that included many of the women who have participated in the loan program through the years.  WMI is gratified to be a part of the family life of the rural women leaders who have contributed so much of themselves to make the loan program a success!
Profile of A WMI Jumbo Loan Borrower

Meet Zitta Wolayo, 52, a WMI borrower who runs a shop in rural Sironko District, about 10 miles from Mbale town in northeastern Uganda.  Zitta is the mother of two teenagers and two working professionals in their mid-20s. Besides being a busy businesswoman, Zitta enjoys singing in her church choir. 

When Zitta joined WMI as a borrower in 2009, she was making approximately $120 a month digging up beans. She has used her subsequent loans to open up her own shop selling snacks, hygiene supplies, and other general goods, increasing her income by 50% to $180 a month.

Zitta's shop is open daily from 7am to 8pm and her children help her run it whenever they are around. She makes regular weekend trips to Mbale town to replenish her shop's inventory. Everything she purchases is carefully noted in her record book and she tracks all of her sales so that she can balance her accounts. Zitta estimates that she saves around $10 a month. With her savings, increased income, and subsequent loans she hopes to expand her shop to include new items like clothing.

Zitta attributes much of her success to the WMI loan program. While the loans have given her the funds to help open up the shop and keep it running, Zitta explained that the WMI training on best business practices has contributed significantly to the success of her shop. Being a part of a WMI Jumbo Loan group ($500 loan) has granted her the opportunity to increase her inventory and profit so that she can pay her children's school fees and provide them with healthier meals.  She proudly noted how she has been able to upgrade her wardrobe and that of her family as well.  Zitta has also participated in the WMI women's health outreach with RAIN Uganda and has been screened for breast and cervical cancer.

The biggest business challenge Zitta faces is ever-changing market demand. Some of these changes are predictable, such as when students go back to their villages on school holidays, which reduces her customer base. Zitta, in turn, promptly reduces her supply of after school snacks accordingly. Although she does her best to predict the trends of the market through her own market research, changes can be abrupt. In spite of this challenge, Zitta expects to see growth in her business and currently plans to hire two employees to help her keep the shop running well.



WMI is extremely grateful for all of the support provided by our donors. Your commitment and thoughtfulness has allowed WMI to continue to expand and bring the benefits of economic opportunity to thousands and thousands of village women throughout East Africa.  One of the most frequent refrains WMI President, Robyn Nietert, hears when she visits the far flung WMI loan hubs each year is: "Thank you for remembering rural women."  A heartfelt thank you to each and every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.



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   trixvdv55@gmail.com 

Jane Erickson          ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli         terryciccotelli@gmail.com 
Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
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