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Posts Tagged ‘Women’s Microfinance Initiative’

Recently I had the opportunity to sit with 12 of our lead coordinators to talk about budgeting, savings, and personal financial planning. Often, budgeting isn’t the most fun topic (especially when we realize how many different expenses we have!) but the BWA women excitedly and actively participated in the discussion.

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During the session, we reviewed the importance of:

  • Setting short and long-term goals; giving us a framework to envision how the money we make and spend today impacts our future
  • Creating a personal financial picture; equipping the women with the ability to understand the “lay of the land” when it comes to their personal finances
  • Establishing strategies to proactively manage expenses; developing plans to save regularly, including tactics to reduce extraneous spending to achieve goals more quickly

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The value of recording your inflows and outflows of money was one of the biggest takeaways from our discussion. Each woman had multiple sources of income that they received at varying times per year, ranging from their salaries as teachers to their multiple yearly harvests from their garden.

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And naturally, each had multiple different types of expenses occurring throughout the year. The “simple” practice of writing down these various income sources and expenses was eye opening for many of the women – as it is for so many people. By only keeping this crucial personal finance information in our heads we can often misestimate our financial situation and as they say here “eat money without realizing where it is going.”

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After two hours of discussion about goal setting, savings management, and 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. Small steps and encouragement towards active management of their personal budget will help empower each woman to be confident in their financial situation and achieve the goals they set for themselves. It was a pleasure starting this dialogue with the coordinators and demonstrating the power of budgeting!

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The Ganako Women’s Community Organization, one of WMI’s partners,  reaches 250 women in five villages in northern Tanzania. GWOCO keeps an office in only one of the villages. But in reality, the entire communities serve as their offices. When visiting other villages, the staff often relies on schools and village governments to lend meeting spaces, but that doesn’t always work out.

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Martha, the GWOCO secretary (left), counts a loan repayment in a forest clearing in Sumawe Village. 

 

 

A few weeks ago the staff arrived at Gongali Primary School to fill out loan applications for 35 borrowers. The teacher told the women they would have to wait a few minutes for a classroom to be available. But the borrowers wanted to get right to it, so they sat down in the grass and started work right there until the classroom was free.

On a recent trip to Sumawe to collect a loan installment, the staff and borrowers found themselves locked out of the village office that they usually use. The borrowers confidently led the staff around to a forest clearing behind the office, and held the entire meeting there. A few coins were briefly lost among the leaves, but they were recovered and the rest of the meeting went off without a hitch.

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Even GWOCO’s official office is fully integrated into the community. A new friend wandered into the office one day during work and had to be herded out. 

WMI’s partners don’t always work under ideal conditions, but they do always get their work done. Whether in their own office, a borrowed classroom, or a forest floor, the ladies of WMI are ambitious and determined. We are proud are team is able to be so adaptable and impactful in the community!

 

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Jess Littman, currently working to create economic and development opportunities for women in rural Tanzania as the 2016 GWOCO Fellow, shares how her experience extends far beyond her work into the heart of the community. 

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Levina’s oldest grandchild, Ima, feeds a piece of cake to Kim.

 

Working in a Tanzanian village is never just about work: everyone here is part of the community. As the WMI Fellow for almost a year now, I have been welcomed into village life far beyond the office.

Recently Levina, the Treasurer of WMI’s local partner organization in Tanzania, celebrated the confirmation of her daughter, Venosta, and a young girl, Katie, whose care and support she has taken on as part of her community leadership.

Levina hosted a mass in her backyard in a tent overflowing with friends and family. In addition to prayer and a sermon, we sang songs and danced in celebration. Venosta and Katie wore bright colored dresses and glitter in their hair, and received gifts from their loved ones.

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Leonila (left), chairwoman of one of the loan groups, dances with the choir.

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This month 40 women joined the WMI family in Tanzania. They are the Tumaini (“hope”) group in Tloma and the Ebeneza group in Gongali. They will providing their communities with milk, clothing, bricks and more from their small businesses.

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Martha (left), GWOCO Secretary, and Eliminatha (right), GWOCO Chairwoman, debate who will get to hand off the next loan to the borrower (middle).

The borrowers are delighted to be joining the program and moving towards financial independence. Agnes from Gongali will be selling kitenge, a fabric that comes in beautiful colors and patterns and is worn by all the women here. She traveled to the nearby city of Arusha the day after receiving her loan to buy her first stock of kitenge.

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Agnes signs the group loan agreement.

Amy from Tloma has been working for one of our local staff members for a while. Now she is using a loan to start a salon in the village. Amy is going to make our borrowers as stylish as they are successful!

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A borrower from Gongali receives her very fist loan!

The borrowers who are starting out in Tloma have an average annual household income of just $265. After a few loan cycles, most borrowers in this village are bringing in almost $1,000 a year from their business – a quadrupling of income! We hope you’ll join us in wishing our new groups the best of luck as they start and expand their ventures.

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The KONY 2012 video has generated significant controvery involving Uganda.

On March 9, the Uganda Government responded in a press Release:
Misinterpretations of media content may lead some people to believe that the LRA is currently active in Uganda. It must be clarified that at present the LRA is not active in any part of Uganda. Successfully expelled by the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces in mid-2006, the LRA has retreated to dense terrain within bordering countries in the Central African area. They are a diminished and weakened group with numbers not exceeding 300. The threat posed by the LRA in our neighboring countries is considerably reduced and we are hopeful that it will be altogether eliminated with the help of US logistical support.

The people of Uganda, especially those in the north of the country are on a path of rebuilding, reconciliation and reintegration and are now vibrant and prospering communities. To aid this prosperity the Government implemented a 10 Year Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda (PRDP).

Former child soldiers perform for WMI trainers in Gulu, Uganda, January 2012

This past January. WMI president, Robyn Nietert, assisted with training workshops for poor women in Gulu, Uganda, which was the epicenter of the LRA insurgency and subsequent IDP camps. She reported that the area was peaceful.

Over a million people were displaced in northern Uganda during the fighting and tens of thousands of children were abducted. There are currently many international NGOs and local Ugandans working on reconstruction and stabilizing the local economy, which was devastated.

WMI opened a loan hub in Gulu last October to give rural women in the area a chance to start businesses. In April, WMI will open another loan hub even further north in Atiak, the site of the largest massacre of civilians by LRA troops, which took place in 1995. Every April 20, Atiak commemorates those who died.

WMI is partnering with two local Ugandan community based organizations to launch these loan hubs: Childcare Development Organization – Uganda and Blessed Watoto (Children). These groups are working very hard, with limited resources, to bring economic opportunities to northern Uganda as it recovers from the impact of the 10 years of fighting. They are on the ground running small outreach initiatives on a daily basis. They provide services and support activites for orphaned children in the region. WMI believes that working at this grassroots level is the best way we can help the women and families of northern Uganda rebuild their lives. We appreciate your support as we bring more and more microfinance opportunites to women in East Africa who have been disenfrachised and marginalized. It is inspiring to see how they build assets to better lives with the small opportunity provided by a WMI loan.

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