A gloriously sunny day at the end of January ushered in the annual WMI graduation celebration in Buyobo, Uganda, which featured the dedication of the new 500-seat pavilion by guest of honor Stephen Mukweli, Managing Director of Postbank Uganda. The graduation coincides with the annual field visit of WMI president Robyn Nietert, who is always on hand to help the borrowers celebrate their achievements. First order of business was opening the just completed pavilion to the cheers of borrowers and villages alike, who welcomed one of the largest meeting spaces in all of Sironko District to their backyard.
The Buyobo Women’s Association manages the loan program on the ground and hosted the event. They scheduled two full days of cooking to prepare enough food for the seven hundred guests and then served each one.
And, lots of food was needed to keep up the energy of all the local entertainers who thrilled the crowd with traditional dances, hip-hop and acrobatics, all to the beat set by the master blaster DJ.
WMI’s Assistant Local Director, Jackline Namonye’s, energetic master of ceremonies performance recalled a younger (female) Mick Jagger; while, WMI Local Director Olive Wolimbwa was regal in her speech outlining the loan program’s accomplishments during 2015. Joined by Irene Wetaka, Deputy Assistant Local Director, this triumvirate sets the tone of professionalism embraced by the nearly 30 staff members (who looked stunning in their blue saris, made especially for the occasion).
Of course no graduation is complete without speeches and there were plenty of officials on hand who wanted a chance to congratulate the ladies on their accomplishments. But the one the crowd was waiting for was the bank’s managing director. Accompanied by Esther Mututta, the bank’s rectly promoted microfinance chief, he expressed admiration for the ladies’ hard work when acknowledging that they have grown to become the Mable branch’s largest client and one of the bank’s 10 top clients nationwide. When he announced the bank’s graduation gift to the ladies of a satellite dish and big screen TV (which they can use to start a movie house in the pavilion) the crowd erupted in cheers and the ladies danced in approval.
The BWA executive committee escorted Robyn to the stage where she offered her congratulations in Ligisu and handed out prizes to the best savers (solar lamps!) and umbrellas to the graduates.
To cap off the inauguration of the pavilion, the ladies had ordered a cake – a rare treat in rural areas due to the scarcity of ovens! Robyn and the Managing Director did the honors cutting the cake. Although polygamy is legel in Uganda, they didn’t actually get married that day, but did commit to continuing to expand the loan program through their organizations’ productive public-private partnership.
As twilight fell on Buyobo, exhausted adults drifted toward home and the children took over the compound, surrounding Ashley Van Waes, WMI’s Resource Fellow, who has become a favorite with villagers young and old alike.