Property Rights for Progress

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Property Rights for Progress

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Using its existing network, Women's Microfinance Initiative would establish a land ownership rights education and land title registration program for rural Ugandan women. It would be implemented in tandem with the microfinance program WMI currently operates through 7 hubs in Uganda and Kenya that serve poor, rural women in over one-hundred villages.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Women in Uganda suffer inordinately from poverty, despite producing 80% of the food and contributing 70% of the agricultural labor. 40 percent of women are illiterate as compared with 26% of men. Women also suffer from customs favoring male dominance. Though women are allowed to own legal titles in Uganda, only 7% actually do. Women thus suffer greatly from gender relations defined by an entrenched patriarchal system. The problem is largely the result of limited informational channels. Particularly in impoverished rural areas, women are uneducated about their rights under the Amendment to the Land Act(2004), which ensures that a man must have the consent of his spouse before disposing of family land. While some women are aware that they have property rights, they do not know the details of those rights or where to turn for help. With WMI's microloan program, for the first time, women have access to capital to start businesses. They are utilizing the income to improve living standards for their families. As they acquire assets they buy land. At this critical juncture, land rights education will ensure that they understand how to protect their property.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

WMI has unique resources, including a strong village-level network on the ground in hub locations through-out Uganda. WMI already operates a ground-breaking microloan program that provides small, uncollateralized loans to impoverished rural women in over 100 villages and then graduates the women to independent banking in a 36-month cycle. Through a unique partnership with PostBank Uganda, women who complete WMI's training program and succesfully repay their loans are graduated to independent bank loans. They join their country's formal economy as they attain finacial autonomy. The microloan program is administered by a village network of highly cohesive women’s advocacy organizations whose leaders are also borrowers. Using this platform, WMI will be able to distribute educational hand-outs in conjunction with loan issues; facilitate land rights speakers; and, provide assistance in obtaining land titles. Pairing property rights education with economic empowerment will result in greater gains. Through the WMI loan program, women have been able to vastly improve household living standards and importantly – they are beginning to buy land. They are building assets worth preserving and protecting through formal property documentation and would be vested in the program’s success. By surveying borrowers every 6 months, WMI documents how microloans are changing rural life, including, equalizing gender relations. Borrowers play a greater role in family decision-making and finances, leading to improved marital relations. Legitimizing land ownership is a critical step for women in Uganda, where only 7% of land is registered to women. Though legal protections exist, few women own land due to entrenched male dominance and patriarchal custom. Lack of knowledge is the greatest challenge in rural areas. The WMI network has the capacity and credibility to provide services that fill this gap.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

WMI has been highly successful in elevating families out of poverty through its microloan program. Before receiving a WMI loan, 98.9% of borrowers lived on less than 50 cents/day. Within 6 months of receiving a loan, not only does this number plummet to 20%, but more than 60% of the women increase their daily income by 100%, over 20% of the women increase their daily income by 200%, and nearly 15% have gains of 300%. Plus, monthly savings rates double. The critical aspect of the program's success is the WMI Transition to Independent Banking program, which takes a borrower from first loan to financial autonomy in 36 months. For the first two years, borrowers receive loans from WMI, issued every six months. These loans are offered without the use of collateral and cross-guaranteed through community groups of 20 women. Our repayment rate is 100%. After 24 months, borrowers graduate to loans from a local bank, PostBank Uganda, that are guaranteed by WMI. After 36 months, the cycle is completed and borrowers graduate to completely independent banking. Their loan funds are recycled back into the program to fund a new group. As a result, the program is fully sustainable. The loan program has allowed women to make concrete improvements to the welfare of their family. 74% of women report a positive impact on their family since entering the program. Over 90% of women now save money on a weekly or biweekly basis. Over 35% of borrowers have made improvements to their house since receiving a loan. 99.5% of women have been able to improve their family's meals since entering the program. With these economic gains, women need access to more infomation about their legal rights, including owning property. WMI's research data reveals many women are beginning to buy property with business income. Tying land rights education and advocacy to borrowers' microloans will package two important resources that empower women.
About You
Women's Microfinance Initiative
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, MD, Montgomery County

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Women's Microfinance Initiative

Organization Phone


Organization Address
Organization Country

, MD, Montgomery County

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on


Do you have a patent for this idea?


Women's Microfinance Initiative will partner with local experts on land policy to disseminate information to its borrowers and other women in the village who want to learn about their rights. WMI gathers borrowers every six months to apply for loan re-issues. Congregating all of the borrowers from multiple villages affiliated with a particular hub location affords the opportunity to offer them classes on business management, budget-making skills, and any other subjects they may find useful. Because of our pre-existing relationship, WMI will be able to garner attention and respect from borrowers. Using this platform, WMI can run seminars and workshops educating women about land laws and connecting them with other resources where they can turn for help.
The program would have 4 parts:
1. Provide hand-outs on land rights at time of loan issues and follow up loan issues.
2. Present bi-monthly speakers who address land related issues
3. Provide access to land conculatants who can help women obtain legal titles and answer specific land -related questions
4. Coordinate with PostBank branches to provide a land questions resource person at each branch.


2011: Women begin to receive hand-outs about land ownership rights when they apply for their first follow-up loans from WMI. Land advocacy experts begin a series of bi-monthly talks utilizing the WMI building. Women begin buying land in increasing numbers with the profits they make from the businesses they launch with loans from WMI.

2012: Women begin utilizing the land ownership consultant to establish titles in their own name to land that they purchase.

2013: Within the next 3 years we would expect the program to be duplicated in other WMI village hub locations. As the WMI loan program expands, so will poor, rural women’s access to resources that inform them and assist them in establishing land ownership. If women are purchasing land but not establishing title even though local resources are available to do so – then we will survey the women about the impediments to establishing land titles.

The results will be documented by survey questions added to WMI's existing semi-annual survey process. WMI Local Coordinators can also provide follow-up to women with land ownership issues.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

It is a general effect. As more women become educated about land rights, they can become advocates for themselves and their families on the topic. They can become agents for change on inappropriate local customs and laws.

Based on WMI surveys, women in the loan program have become more active in their communities as they gain financial independence and business skills.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

Land ownership advocates, speakers and consultants could partner with WMI’s loan network to distribute information and assistance to women in acquiring land titles. Government officials attend all WMI graduation ceremonies and celebrations and could be asked to speak about Uganda’s laws protecting and promoting land ownership for women.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

WMI’s 2010 income will approach $150,000. This will represent an increase of about 25% over last year’s revenues.

All current and past financial statements are available on the WMI web site. WMI raises funds from private donors and foundation grants. As it has expanded the loan program and collected additional data and provided analysis of the loan program impact, foundation grants have increased. Because the loan program is successful, sustainable and results in immediate improvements in the household living standards of borrowers, we believe WMI will attract increasing support from foundations, corporations and international agencies focused on poverty alleviation, women’s rights and youth initiatives.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The defining moment was the realization that in the process of organizing locally administered microfinance programs, WMI has had to develop a village-level distribution network that can be utilized to provide additional services to its clientele. WMI has developed a pipeline to the rural villages it serves. This pipeline is a resource that can be used to provide much needed information and support on a variety of issues that impact borrowers’ well-being and rights. By building human capacity in the villages, WMI has built infrastructure that can support other platforms for change – like advancing women’s land ownership rights.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Robyn Nietert is the president of WMI. She is an attorney and for over 25 years, she was a member of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Brown, Nietert and Kaufman, which specialized in telecommunications, focusing on innovative wireless technologies. She is also a founder and principal of American Capital Partners Company, which specialized in mergers and acquisitions of high speed broadband facilities, and she owned two-way broadband operations. She represented pioneering telecom industries before the U.S. Congress and federal agencies, and is extremely familiar with crafting federal legislation and agency rules. Over the past several years she has organized several non-profit educational foundations and served on their boards of directors. Since 2008, she has devoted her full-time attention to WMI.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Web Search (e.g., Google or Yahoo)

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Legal education and awareness, Other.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

In order for property rights to become meaningful to women they need the financial empowerment to own property. Once this happens, the abstract becomes concrete. Pairing a microloan program with a property rights program brings these two elements together in a way that impacts women's everyday lives.