Posted by Nicole Bolliger, WMI intern in Buyobo, Uganda
WMI just finished issuing the loans for the last quarter of 2014. This quarter there were some important milestones reached as several hubs began to train their own borrowers with WMI staff simply acting as back-up. Loan hub Chairwomen in Kenya and Tanzania got to demonstrate their teaching abilities under the watchful eye of WMI’s experienced staff members who travelled from Buyobo, Uganda to support the loan hubs as they assume responsibility for training their new borrowers.
Another milestone was the loan hub in Atiak, located in far northern Uganda, graduating to independent operations. After two years of hard work and a great learning process, Sylvia Akello, the Head Administrator of Atiak, will lead her loan hub into the future. The local staff has acquired all the necessary skills to successfully run the WMI loan program. WMI will continue to support them if they have any question or need help, as for example by making a sample budget for next year. Instead of reporting to WMI bi-weekly, they will keep us up-to-date on their progress with quarterly status reports.
The continued conflict in South Sudan creates chaos in the Atiak area, but also presents opportunities for small businesswomen. A newly-tarred road, constructed by the Ugandan government, now connects Atiak village with the much larger town of Gulu to the south, and the border of South Sudan to the north. This makes it easier for WMI borrowers to acquire inventory and then sell products across the border. Many of their businesses are flourishing thanks to the constant truck traffic and the commerce with South Soudan. The Atiak loan hub has expanded so much that it just added a sub-hub with borrowers in the border town of Pachilo. The new road connects the two villages and makes it possible for Atiak to extend the reach of the WMI loan program.
Income from the Atiak borrowers and a generous foundation grant allowed the construction of a new building for loan operations in Atiak. We had the honour to have our last training for new borrowers in this new building. Olive Wolimbwa, WMI’s Local director, aided by Local Coordinator Falaska, supervised the training while WMI’s Director of Finance for East Africa, Melissa LaRue, reviewed the financial situation of the loan hub.
I had the pleasure of teaching borrowers how to make reusable pads and talked with them about family planning methods and how to prevent HIV transmission to their children. In this region, the women have more children than the average in Uganda. Almost every woman came with a baby to the training. Everywhere the women are enthusiastic to learn, apply and share their knowledge. The reusable menstrual pads program is a success due to its practical use and low cost.
We also trained and reviewed the records of the loan hub in Gulu, which was the center of the fighting during the years of insurgency led by the Lord’s Resistance Army. The Gulu area still suffers economic hardships from the decade of unrest the ended nearly five years ago. Our loan hub here has faced numerous challenges, but the Chairwoman, Evelyn Achieng continues to work diligently to support local borrowers and their businesses.