Twenty-nine Loans to Women Entrepreneurs in Uganda:  Micro-Loan Pilot Program Update

By Karen LaFrance, IWC Business Manager

We are happy to report that twenty-nine women and their families are now benefiting from micro-loans ranging from $250US to $500US in Mutundwe Village (near Kampala), Uganda.   The women’s businesses include:  farming and poultry-raising, sales of vegetables and other edibles, residential rental properties, on-the-street retail shops and cafes, a “saloon” (hair salon), vending charcoal and firewood, and sales of Mobile Money and Airtime for cell phones.

Pictured here are several Mutundwe Village program participants preparing their loan applications with organizer Abbey Ssejjuuko (third from right). Photo courtesy of Ssebunya Kizza.

Pictured here are several Mutundwe Village program participants preparing
their loan applications with organizer Abbey Ssejjuuko (third from right).
Photo courtesy of Ssebunya Kizza.

Loans go for more inventory, equipment, improving residential rental premises, providing security fencing, and purchase of young livestock and inoculations and feed for animals.   The no interest loans, with repayments terms of six months to one year, are being repaid on Saturdays through December 31, 2015.

Participants are organized into Lending Circles, also meeting on Saturdays, to learn about business and leadership issues.  They pay into a joint Lending Circle guaranty fund to cover any delinquent payments.  All borrowers have accounts at Centenary Bank.

The Africa Fund of the International Women’s Convocation (IWC) provides loan capital.  UU Funding Panels’ grants and individual contributors provide financial support for staffing in Uganda.

Mr. Abbey Ssejjuuko is the IWC/ARSF organizer.  Mr. Ssebunya Kizza is on-site program manager and I provide overall project management.  I am tasked to write final reports and recommendations for the pilot project and to evaluate the potential of next phases—like expansions or program extension on site and/or expansion to other locations— for the project.

The project is a joint effort with African Rural Schools Foundation (ARSF), a consortium of several UU churches, which owns and runs a school in Mutundwe Village (http://www.africanruralschools.org/foundation.htm).

ARSF Founder Reverend “Renee” Waun of East Suburban UU Church, Murrysville, PA and Michael Aaron Glass, a long time business planning expert, are stalwart participants in weekly SKYPE and VSee calls.  Several UU congregations have provided contributions that benefit the Pilot Project.

Rev. Waun, Mr. Glass and other volunteers travelled to Uganda this winter; while in Mutundwe Village, they visited and video-taped several women at their places of business.   IWC unveiled these videos on the IWC Global Sisters call in January 2015 and they remain available for viewing at:  https://www.intlwomensconvo.org/news/beneficiaries-of-iwcs-micro-loan-program-in-uganda-the-women-and-their-businesses/.

IWC invites participation in this project.  IWC staff and Board members listen in on the VSee calls from time to time; as they know, it is very easy to do.  Contact me at klaf40@gmail.com for
information.  Please join us!

Unitarian congregations across Transylvania have been asked to honor Mother’s Day with a special plate collection to UNOSZ, the Association of Unitarian Women in Romania, which will split the collection with IWC, directing it to the Uganda Micro Finance Project.

Uganda Business Training Micro-Loan Program Heats Up!

Karen LaFrance, IWC Business Manager

IWC Mutundwe, Uganda Business Training Micro-Loan Program

Mr.Charles Muyingo of Centenary Rural Development Bank with Nakanda Miria, Leader of IWC/ARSF Lending Circle Start Up A2, Mutundwe Village, Kampala, Uganda

The International Women’s Convocation’s partnership with African Rural Schools Foundation (ARSF) in Uganda is going strong.  Ten micro-loans closed to ten women program participants in August and September.  Loans ranged from about 250 to 500 USD.

The kinds of business financed are:  the selling of vegetables such as sweet potatoes, cassava & bananas; residential rental property upgrades, retail shops, two poultry-raising businesses, a “saloon” (hair salon), selling of charcoal, firewood and chicken, and selling Mobile Money and Airtime, which facilitates payments for goods and services in Uganda.

The loans are generally for start-up inventory or equipment, improving premises, providing security fencing, and purchase of young livestock and feed.  Payments are due nearly every week on Saturdays and collected by Mr. Abbey Ssejjuuko, IWC/ARSF program staff-person.

These loans are called “micro-loans” in today’s world’s economic parlance.  While they are much larger than the original, minuscule loans provided in the Grameen Bank model, they are small and “unsecured” (guaranteed only by personal signatures). The intensive training and staffing that IWC provides are components which, along with the cooperative groups called “Lending Circles,” are a mainstay of successful micro-lending.

On September 20th, program participants enjoyed a comprehensive presentation on banking from Mr. Charles Muyingo of Centenary Rural Development Bank.   Mr. Ssebunya Kizza, ARSF program staff, met Mr. Muyingo at a weekly Rotary meeting, forging a personal relationship that led to our choosing this local community-based institution as the program’s bank.  Mr. Muyingo also presented participants with their Certificates of Completion of the Micro-Business Training component, concluded in spring 2014.

Lending Circles continue to meet three weekends per month and a second round of loans is expected to close soon.  On a regular basis, participants—who are highly motivated to learn and benefit from this initiative—send their thanks for IWC and ARSF’s support.

In January 2015, Rev. Renee Waun, Michael Glass, and Lee Cunningham from the Western Pennsylvania UU congregations will be visiting the ARSF school in Mutundwe Village.  They will be meeting with the Lending Circles and visiting individual businesses.