Women’s History Month: Nayima Umaru
Women have been integral to FINCA’s success in bringing financial services to underserved communities around the world. Today we’d like to remember Nayima Umaru, a woman who inspired others in her community through her drive and resilience, and was a great ambassador for FINCA in Uganda.
Nayima grew up near Jinja in eastern Uganda. She never went to school. As the only girl among seven brothers, she watched while her father sent each of his boys to school but left her at home as he didn’t believe in educating girls.
A Young Woman Dealt a Bad Hand in Life
When she turned 14, her father forced Nayima to marry so he’d no longer have to care for her. After the ceremony, her new husband revealed that he was already married. Nayima had two children during this marriage, but the first wife did not accept her and she eventually had to leave the household.
To make ends meet, Nayima baked samosas (potato-stuffed pastries) in her home and sold them on the streets. she made about a dollar a day but, after expenses, only 60 cents remained to spend on food for the whole family.
She married again and with her second husband had eight children, but they were all girls, so he left her because he wanted a son. He came back, however, when he fell ill. Nayima scraped together money for his medical expenses, but he eventually died, leaving her pregnant with twins.
Nayima moved into a single-room hut with all of her children. They had nothing to eat, and the children had to drop out of school.
I was so poor then that I could not afford a crumb of soap. I asked my neighbors to give me their dirty washing water, so I might reuse it to wash my children’s clothing.
Nayima began selling bananas and fried cassava to feed her children.
FINCA Provides an Opportunity for a New Life
One of her friends then told her about FINCA and invited her to join a Village Banking ™ group. She did, borrowing $25 to invest in a bucket of produce. She sold from the entrance to her one-room home and did quite well. After a second loan of $75, Nayima was earning enough to feed her family meat twice a week.
Nayima continued to build her business and, with her seventh FINCA loan, she bought a refrigerator.
This was a big moment in my life. Now I could grow my business even more, because I could keep my produce fresh.
With her twelfth loan Nayima opened her own restaurant, which provided employment to people in her community. She did so well that she began to save $5-$10 a day until she had $500 for a down payment on a piece of land on which she eventually built a house for her family.
Because of her success, Nayima was elected chairperson of her Village Banking ™ group, and the experience prepared her to win a seat on her local city council. Her story inspired many women to join FINCA and pursue their dreams. Nayima passed away several years ago after a long battle with cancer, but her spirit lives on in the women we serve in Uganda and around the world who are as tenacious and industrious as she was.