*Borrower Spotlight*


Borrower of the Month, Rita Nambafu, in her hair and nail salon

In an effort to showcase the talents, challenges, and successes of our borrowers, WMI has begun to select stand-out clients to feature on our blog. The selection process is carried out by the local coordinators who meet every Wednesday. They discuss the status of their groups and nominate one borrower they have found exemplary. This borrower might have a unique idea for a business, have used her loan in a way that provided major growth opportunity, is a model for savings, or is someone that other borrowers admire and consult for advice. WMI looks for borrowers that have strived for excellence and champion our model of microfinance.

This month WMI is proud to introduce you to Rita Nambafu. Living in Budadiri, a village deep in the valley of Eastern Uganda, Rita can be found in her freshly-swept beauty salon in the middle of the town’s busy trading center. Her shop is complete with full hair and nail services and is complemented by an extensive collection of beauty products for purchase.

At the young age of 22, Rita has proven herself a natural businesswoman. After completing a nine month salon course at Uganda Vocational Training school, she took her first WMI loan and opened her shop’s doors in February 2015. Now on her second cycle of the loan program, Rita has been able to edge out her competition by diversifying her business. In addition to her hair and nail services, she also offers advice on proper maintenance and has had large success selling hair products that will ensure the freshest looking style for months to come. She has also been able to expand and hire a new employee, her sister, Annet Nambozo, who is learning the tricks of the trade.

The sister-duo offer services including hair washing, braiding, weaving, relaxing, coloring, cutting, and styling. The salon also offers full nail services including manicures and pedicures. Rita mentions that although hair braiding is her favorite activity at her salon, the weaves are the best-sellers.


Rita Nambafu (right) has been able to expand her salon business and employ her sister, Annet Nambozo (left)

Rita attributes much of her business acumen to the loan program; she is completely comfortable keeping daily records and knows how essential customer care is to her business. She averages about twenty clients per month and is confident that they have and will remain loyal. This season is a particularly busy one as women prepare for holiday festivities and parties. When asked if she had seen a change within her community since being involved with the WMI program, Rita commented with a sly grin, “The women in my village look much smarter than before my shop opened.”

Looking forward, Rita’s goal is to eventually move her salon into a nearby city by the name of Mbale. About an hour’s drive away, this move would drastically reshape her business to involve more clientele, supplies, and employees. With an easy demeanor and an acute vision for success, Rita will have no problem achieving this dream.

_DSC6197This October marked the beginning of a new Craft Class for BWA borrowers. With the expertise of staff members Irene Phoebe Wetaka and Donata Kainza, BWA borrowers are learning to embroider and knit various crafts. They are currently creating table cloths and mats made of yarn and cotton. Borrowers meet every Monday and Friday from 4 – 6:30 p.m. to sharpen their skills and create beautiful décor to take to market. After each lesson they take their projects home to continue their work.

Met by a matching fund from WMI, the class was able to work together and raise 750,000 shillings to purchase sewing needles, embroidery hoops, and fabric. The class intends to display their finished products during graduation in January for visitors to purchase.

_DSC6174Last week Melissa and WMI’s newest fellow, Ashley van Waes, made the trek to Kampala to meet with Postbank Uganda (PBU) Managing Director, Steven Mukweli, and his colleagues Head of Credit Patrick Woyago, and Senior Manager William Alemi. This trip was to acquaint Ashley with PBU executives for a continued successful relationship between WMI and our primary banking partner.

WMI’s program is unique in that they groom their borrowers to transition to the formal marketplace after they graduate from the two year program. WMI enforces good business practices such as accumulating savings, learning to keep personal finance records, marketing skills, and loan repayment. _DSC6168

During the meeting WMI discussed the status of the pavilion and the transition process to PBU once borrowers have graduated. PBU was thrilled to discover that a room was built in the pavilion specifically for their staff to collect during loan repayment days. They look forward to filling it with good business! PBU is also enthusiastic about continuing to take on WMI borrowers and will work to gain their business.

On Thursday, June 25th, WMI supervised the making of reusable menstrual pads (RUMPS) in Buyobo Primary School to help girls, most of whom cannot afford to buy disposable pads, and prevent them from staying home from school due to their menstrual cycle. Eighty-five girls in Primary 6 and 7 classes, ranging in age from twelve to fourteen years old attended, from both Buyobo Primary School and Buyobo Parents. The coordinators, WMI East Africa Finance Director, Melissa, and summer interns, Abby and Jing, prepared for several days before, cutting rolls of the material into the right shape for the girls to sew and make into their pads during the workshop.

When Melissa, Abby, and Jing arrived at the school in the afternoon, a crowd of students welcomed them and they set up in a large classroom. Soon dozens of girls were at work creating their pads while listening to Melissa and the Girls Group teacher, Susan, give a lesson on hygiene and their proper use. Abby and Jing assisted cutting the remaining materials and took shots for the video they were making about Girls Group, a WMI program that teaches girls about health and entrepreneurship, many of whose members took part in the workshop.

The girls were happy with the results and they each left with two pads; while they wear one, they can wash the other. Susan encouraged them to teach the other women in their families how to create the pads so they can better handle their periods and avoid just using old rags.

After the workshop, the interns interviewed Susan, several students in Girls Group, and the headmistress of Buyobo Primary School to ask them about their impressions of the impact of Girls Group and the pad workshop. They stressed the usefulness of the reusable pads in helping girls manage their periods and stay in school.

On July 9th, the interns, Melissa, Susan, and the coordinators held a second workshop for about forty local secondary school girls from Secondary 1 through 4, ranging in age from fourteen to eighteen years old. While teaching them to make their pads, Susan also spoke to them about family planning and the importance of staying in school. Several girls came to the front of the classroom as the workshop was ending to extend their appreciation for the workshop. Nafuna Kadija, a sixteen year old from Senior 2, expressed her thanks saying, “You have brought for us something which will help us. Some of us, we are lacking money to buy pads. We have been missing school lessons because of menstruation. Thank you very much for what you have done for us.”

Given the success of the workshops for girls and the effectiveness of the RUMPS as a cheaper alternative to already-made pads, a third workshop, this time for interested WMI borrowers, will be held in the near future.

Nafuna Kadija, a sixteen year old from Senior 2, expresses her thanks during the second workshop.

Nafuna Kadija, a sixteen year old from Senior 2, expresses her thanks during the second workshop.

Girls Group teacher Susan

Girls Group teacher Susan

Girls proudly hold up finished pads

Girls proudly hold up finished pads

Melissa and Olive demonstrate how to use the reusable pads.

Melissa and Olive demonstrate how to use the reusable pads.

sewing a button onto a reusable pad

sewing a button onto a reusable pad

Interns Abby and Jing cut extra material during the workshop.

Interns Abby and Jing cut extra material during the first workshop.

Girls in the first workshop busy making their pads.

Girls in the first workshop busy making their pads.

Monday, June 1st was the first day of work for three newcomers. Abby and Jing arrived for a summer internship with WMI and Merida came for her first day of work as the new WMI secretary. They started the morning getting oriented around the office, learning more about WMI and BWA’s loan process, and going over job responsibilities. Merida learned about how information is filed in the office, how to track loan records, and how to print and copy surveys for borrowers. Merida, also a borrower herself, was helpful in answering Abby and Jing’s questions and was a fast learner! As the morning ended they all headed home for lunch before afternoon rain began to pour.


Abby and Jing are here for nine weeks through Princeton’s International Internship Program. They left New York Friday afternoon and arrived in Buyobo late Sunday afternoon after staying in Kampala for a night, and they got a chance to take a beautiful first walk around Buyobo and meet coordinators and members of the village before getting settled in on Sunday night. A main goal for their internship is to create some videos to demonstrate WMI’s impact with narrative.

On Monday afternoon, Abby and Jing returned to the office and brainstormed some ideas for video subjects with Melissa and Olive. They look forward to developing them over the next few months while continuing to get to the know WMI’s model and the women and community in Buyobo.

This teacher holiday WMI staff attended a training in Mbale hosted by Spark Microgrants (www.sparkmicrogrants.org), learning about their community-driven facilitation process, advocacy, and project planning.


Jackie (BWA assistant director) participates during a session on proposal development

Last November Spark facilitators attended WMI’s Training of Trainers held in Buyobo, teaching leaders at other loan hubs how to train new borrowers each quarter. Spark facilitators learned how WMI teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills, and now, in-turn took us through their 6-month community-centered proposal development process.


Discussions during an afternoon panel

Along with four representatives from WMI, six other organizations joined the training from close to home and farther afield: Little Big Africa (Mbale), Bead for Life (Kampala), Child Fund (Soroti), Insieme Si Puo (Karamoja), Rafiki wa Mandaleo Trust (Kenya), and Peace for Africa through Economic Development (Kenya).


Allen (BWA coordinator) and Grace (BWA operations manager) participated in the training each day

Each session involved lots of discussions and participation. It was a great opportunity to learn from Spark facilitators, and share insight and experiences with other organizations doing powerful work across East Africa.

Spark Training May 2015

The team! Facilitators and trainees on the last day

Construction for the new pavilion in Buyobo is under way! Sam and his team have been working hard over the past months to level the ground and build the foundation for the new 500-person structure. It will be a great addition for new borrower training, annual graduation celebrations, and more community development programs such as the health screenings and adult literacy classes that Buyobo Women’s Association arranges. It will also be available for community members to rent for events and can generate additional income for the loan program.


Now that rainy season is in full swing, Buyobo frequently gets several hours of (very) heavy rain in the afternoons. Even with these interruptions progress continues and the new space is starting to take form. Special thanks to the Cordes Foundation for the grant for this new structure!



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