Founded by women in the Washington, D.C. area, WMI is a hands-on international outreach effort. Since January 2008, WMI has issued over 6,000 loans in 60 villages in rural East Africa, maintains a 100% repayment rate, and has now established a $300,000 revolving credit facility. Because the loans carry interest, they produce income to issue more loans to new borrowers.
WMI borrowers use their loan money to grow and sell produce, open small shops and roadside food stands, raise chickens, tailor clothes, open beauty salons and carpentry shops and grow coffee. The women use their profits to pay school fees, buy better food, improve their homes, obtain healthcare for their families, and expand their businesses.
WMI promotes social justice and human capacity building, and provided financial literacy training. The loan program is run by village-level women’s empowerment groups. No collateral is required and the women guarantee each other’s loans. They take their repayment responsibilities seriously, use their money cautiously and manage their businesses carefully.
In January 2010, the first WMI borrowers graduated to bank loans in a unique partnership WMI has developed with Post Bank Uganda. After 24-months in WMI’s village-friendly program, successful borrowers graduate to the Transition Fund, which provides a loan directly from PostBank for one year. After that, successful borrowers graduate to independent banking. As of October 2012, 320 women are in independent banking and 280 women are in the transition program.
This progression to independent banking in a 36-month cycle is fully sustainable once initially funded, and continues in perpetuity to graduate experienced rural businesswomen into the formal economy at the same rate loans are issued to new borrowers. Once a woman moves on to the Transition Fund, her loan funds are recycled to a first-time borrower. This allows WMI to focus capital on first-time loans and ensure the growth of the village economies.
This blog is currently being updated by the WMI Resource Fellow in Uganda, Hannah Kahl and WMI media intern, Jess Littman.