SUMMER 2018             





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  • Girls Empowerment Program Flourishing in Southwest Uganda
  • Summer Interns Busy With Loan Hub Projects 
  • Next Generation of WMI Fellows Is Launched
  • Budeda Pavilion Completed 
  • Personal Finance Workshop for WMI's East Africa Leadership Team  
  • Negonja Organics Explores Collaboration with WMI Borrowers
  • WMI Grantee Reteti Elephant Sanctuary Featured in InStyle Magazine
  • WMI Brunch in Bethesda Updates Supporters on Program Operations
  • Meet Rebecca Namataka - Wife, Mother and Rural Businesswoman



After school meeting of Girls Groups
In partnership with Rukundo International, WMI supports the Girls Empowerment Program for sixth grade students at a half dozen underserved primary schools in Southwestern Uganda. The program focuses on life skills and reproductive health, complemented by financial literacy and business-skills training. 
In line with WMI's mission and objectives, a student-led entrepreneurial activity has been incorporated into the program, so that the girls begin to learn sound financial practices early.
Modeling handmade shoulder bags
Rukundo's founder, Andrea Sedlock, recently returned from a trip to Uganda and reported on the impact of the business training: "The girls choose their own business activities - some are  growing crops and some are making crafts. The girls vote on how they spend the money earned. At one of the schools the girls voted to buy knickers (underwear) and at another they bought pens. One teacher gave her  own money to buy craft supplies to start a project. Now the parents have seen the impact and have started contributing some resources as well."
Showing off homegrown cabbages 

Andrea emphasized that, "The entrepreneurial projects have taught the girls how to independently plan for and take care of some of their basic needs, like having lotion and knickers. Some of the girls didn't even know how to dig for planting crops before the program started, and now they can help their parents with the family plot. They tell other young girls in the village about the program and pass on the skills they've learned. Many are starting gardens at home (raising produce like cabbages) so they earn their own income. The community is harvesting the benefits of this knowledge, literally, from the sale of crops."


Lilia, Cerina and the guest house guard dog
Our newest college interns arrived in Uganda at the beginning of June.  They are working on data analysis of loan program operations, launching an outreach pilot project with a small group of local orphans who are cared for by WMI borrowers, and interviewing our businesswomen about their enterprises.

Lilia Smyth  is from the great city of Boston. She is entering her second year at Leiden University in The Hague, Netherlands where she majors in International Studies with a concentration in Africa and the Swahili language. She loves to learn languages, meet new people, sing and play music, and travel whenever she has the chance. She is passionate about children's rights issues and community development, and hopes to have a long career making the lives of kids and families around the world a little bit better. She plans to work in international development and human rights law in Africa.

Cerina Corrigan  is from Auckland, New Zealand. One year ago, she packed her suitcase, said goodbye to her family and friends, and moved to the U.S to study Economics at Princeton University. She hopes to initially find a job in the financial sector and then transition into a career that more closely mirrors the work she is doing with WMI in Buyobo, consulting for an NGO or in working for a development bank. She really likes working with numbers and analyzing data, so is set on finding a job in the business sphere.
In the summer of 2010, Ainsley Morris and Montana Stevenson, two freshly-minted college grads
Tana and Ainsley, Buyobo, 2010
who had just met one another, headed to Buyobo, Uganda for a year residency as WMI's first Resource Fellows.  They helped computerize loan program finan ces, develop an op erations handbook, and negotiate WMI's agreements with Postbank Uganda.  Their unfailing  resourcefulness in the face of never-ending logistical challenges endeared them to the village women we serve and cemented WMI's relationship with the local community. They paved the way for WMI's robust summer internship program and annual Fellowships.

And in 2018
After returning to the U.S, Ainsley went on to become a Founding Partner at Newid Capital, an impact investing firm focused on expanding financial services in developing markets, and Montana joined Danone North America, the world's largest B Corp., as a Procurement Manager focusing on sustainable, plant-based ingredients. 

Remaining friends after their Uganda adventure, the two were together again in Alexandria, Virginia this summer where Montana got to welcome Ainsley's newborn son, Rhys.  Racking up another first in the WMI record books, Ainsley is our first alumni to start a family.  Congratulations to Ainsley and her husband, Duncan, on their darling baby boy - whose spot as a WMI Resource Fellow in Buyobo in 2040 is now reserved! 
WMI is pleased to have just completed construction of its fourth sub-hub pavilion, this one serving Budeda, Uganda. The Budeda ladies raised the funds to purchase the land for the pavilion, which will serve the 250+ loan group members in their local service area. They are heavily vested in the building's upkeep and proper use. The pavilion and 3 stand latrine (as a public health imperative we are now including self-draining pit latrines with any buildings we construct) are already in heavy demand!
Sam Wesomoyo, contractor, finishing the WMI pavilion in Budeda

WMI is committed to building structures in our rural service areas when the demand and ongoing performance of a contingent of borrowers warrants it. When borrower groups begin serving about 250 members in a distinct location, the logistics of operating under a banana tree are just too daunting! 

The pavilions have significant positive benefits well beyond providing a physical location for loan program operations. Numerous sub-counties are now renting space in WMI buildings because the Uganda government does not provide the sub-counties with meeting space. In rural areas, there are frequently no buildings (except schools, which are typically in session) for officials to use.  This co-use strengthens loan program relationships with local government entities.


Marissa in Buyobo
Marissa Linden, a Deloitte strategy and operations consultant with experience in developing financial training materials, travelled to WMI headquarters in Buyobo this summer to conduct personal finance workshops for our loan program leadership team.  As Marissa pointed out, "
Often, budgeting isn't the most fun topic (especially when we realize how many different expenses we have!)." But she found that the 12 women on the leadership team excitedly and actively participated in the sessions.

After discussions about goal setting, savings management, and
WMI leadership team taking notes
personal financial planning, the lead coordinators now have an outline to share and will continue to use this template as a training tool for current and future borrowers. Providing this type of high-caliber, ongoing financial training for the WMI leadership team is helping ensure they can teach our rural borrowers how to achieve their financial goals. 

Marissa said, "It was a pleasure engaging in this dialogue with the coordinators and demonstrating the power of budgeting!"  This was quite a seal of approval from a financial management professional used to handling large scale operations.   WMI is extremely grateful to Marissa for volunteering her time and talents with the loan program.



Heading out to the banana plantations
In early July, representatives from Negonja Organics travelled to Buyobo to meet WMI's Local Director, Olive Wolimbwa, and our local executive team to explore a possible collaboration between WMI and Negonja. The company is a Ugandan start-up focused on processing and drying organic fruit to make healthy snack foods. WMI borrowers and coordinators arranged a visit to area farms and banana plantations to check out the prospects for providing raw fruit to the company.

As a result of the meetings, we are going to test three pilot
Ripe branch of plantains
projects for growing sweet bananas (known locally as gonja) that are the main ingredient for plantain chips. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for the local WMI team to showcase its capacity and brainstorm possible value-added manufacturing facilities in the rural areas WMI serves. Our local women's groups were very enthusiastic about Negonja's mission and grateful that the Negonja leadership took the time to travel to Buyobo to meet with them.


In our last newsletter, we highlighted WMI's initiative with Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Kenya to promote training and employment for Samburu women and included a link to our 30-second video starring some endearing elephant calves.  Link

Reteti is featured in a July article in InStyle magazine, which discusses its efforts to encourage employment for local village women through community-based conservation: Meet the Badass Woman Who Has Rescued 30 Elephants.   Link

There are very few jobs or training of any kind available to village women in this remote part of the Kenya. Reteti is breaking new ground in giving village women a chance to choose a non-traditional path to secure a better future for themselves and their families.


WMI Board member Trix Vandervossen hosted a brunch for WMI supporters in June at her home in Bethesda. MD. Fortunately, the rain held off long enough to accommodate dining and speeches outside on the garden patio. 

WMI president, Robyn Nietert, updated the crowd on WMI's current activities as our organization heads into its second decade of service. This year WMI is on track to hit the 2 million dollar mark for total funds raised. 

Still operating with the slenderest of overhead (less than 5%), WMI has invested over 95% percent of is funds directly into programs and services the benefit the rural women we serve in East Africa. With the loyal support of our generous donors, WMI is on track to continue expanding loan program operations in 2018.



Meet 41 year-old Rebecca Namataka, who lives in the village of Kaama in Eastern Uganda, where she was born and raised. A wife and mother of 6, she is an involved member of her church. Although Rebecca has had her own tailoring business for 14 years, she joined WMI two years ago to learn recordkeeping and acquire the skills necessary to be a successful businesswoman.
As soon as she received her first loan, Rebecca began buying additional materials, selecting new fabrics to create original clothes, and stocking up on linings and threads to repair and alter clothes her customers bring to her. The loans have allowed her to increase her outputs because she now has necessary supplies and inventory on hand. With the influx of new materials, Rebecca has been able to delegate tasks to her oldest daughter, who is training to become a tailor herself. On the days Rebecca is working in the Bugusege market, her daughter is now able to work from their home in Kaama village, allowing them to serve more customers from a greater number of villages.
Since receiving her first loan, Rebecca has improved her recordkeeping and is now creating detailed, long- range budgets. She is able to pay for her children's school fees, and by putting money away each month, she is putting herself in a position to continue to pay fees for the entirety of their schooling. Her savings have also helped ensure her family's ability to deal with unexpected costs and medical treatments. This greater financial know-how has positively impacted Rebecca's marriage. She is now able to buy goods for herself, her children, and her home without having to ask permission from her husband.
Looking ahead, Rebecca hopes that with continued access to capital and training she will be able to continue to expand her business. Her dream is to combine her tailoring skills and business savvy to establish a clothing shop where she will be able to store, advertise and sell all of her own creations.

Thank You!

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 every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.
The WMI Board of Directors  
Robyn Nietert    Betsy Gordon    Deborah Smith     Jane Erickson  
      Terry Ciccotelli     Trix Vandervossen    June Kyakobye  
Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
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