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3 Renewable Energy Initiatives that Empower WomenProviding women with access to clean energy is crucial in the fight against poverty and gender inequality. Women experience energy poverty at higher rates than men and are more likely to die from indoor air pollution caused by nonrenewable household energy solutions. When women have access to electricity, they have greater opportunities to pursue an education, find employment and become civically involved. This article examines three renewable energy initiatives that empower women to create change within their communities and lives.

The Importance of Including Women in the Renewable Energy Sector

The renewable energy sector has ample employment opportunities, with a projected 29 million job opportunities by 2050. While this creates room for women within the workforce, 68% of hires are men. The World Economic Forum (WEF) explains that empowering women in the industry and in their communities “will strengthen economic and social progress and support governments to deliver gender-balanced, sustainable energy for all.”

Including women also has a positive impact on the energy sector. When women run energy enterprises, work in energy and create energy policies, the policies are more efficient. The utilities earn more revenue and sell more energy commodities. Thus, including women in the industry can help improve efficiency and generate profit.

As WEF explained, empowering women in their communities can be transformative. When given the opportunity, one woman can power 50 homes in her community. This is because women “hold strong social capital in communities, [so] they are better able to reach out to other women to generate awareness about clean energy solutions and its positive impacts on their lives.” It is clear that working to empower women with renewable energy opportunities benefits both the industry and communities.

3 Projects that Empower Women with Renewable Energy

Despite the fact that women are underrepresented in the renewable energy sector, there are many organizations that empower women with renewable energy initiatives.

  1. Solar Sister: The U.N. describes Solar Sister as “an award-winning social enterprise advancing women’s entrepreneurship to bring off-grid electricity and clean cooking solutions to underserved communities across sub-Saharan Africa.” Solar Sister trains women in entrepreneurship and equips them with the services and goods they will need for their sustainable businesses. These women, in turn, provide renewable energy to those in need in rural communities in African countries. Currently, Solar Sister works in Nigeria and Tanzania and has previously worked in Uganda. The organization hopes to be actively working in five countries by 2022. As of 2020, Solar Sister has trained more than 5,000 entrepreneurs who have provided electricity to almost two million people.
  2. Barefoot College: Barefoot College is an organization in India that trains women to be entrepreneurs, solar engineers and teachers so that they can bring electricity and education to their communities. Barefoot College works in more than 2,000 villages and 93 countries. The organization provides solar energy education, training, empowerment programs, clean water initiatives, education for children and healthcare programs.
  3. ENVenture: The ENVenture program, sponsored by New Energy Nexus, supports Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in villages in Uganda so that these CBOs can establish clean energy businesses. After a year, the CBOs that perform the best receive more financial support. ENVenture has helped provide energy access to 95,000 people. It has created 600 jobs, 70% of which are filled by women.

Moving Forward

These three projects show how renewable energy initiatives can empower women and benefit communities. Whether through financial support or education, these organizations are empowering women with renewable energy solutions to expand their horizons. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make renewable energy and women’s empowerment a priority.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

solar sisterWith nearly 75% of rural Africa lacking access to electricity and only 26% of women acting as entrepreneurs, several African countries remain behind the developmental curve and bogged down in poverty. Lack of light and decreased business-building based on gender and status stall improvement in nearly every facet of life. Therefore, access to electricity and increased female entrepreneurial activity could be pivotal in overcoming poverty. The nonprofit organization Solar Sister empowers women to conquer economic, healthcare and education challenges in developing nations by encouraging female entrepreneurship related to increasing electricity availability.

What Is Solar Sister?

Founded in 2011, Solar Sister is a women-led empowerment movement aimed at encouraging female innovation and entrepreneurship through solar technology. The organization trains and equips participants with the necessary skills to create and distribute clean energy solutions that help combat community problems. The overarching goal is to increase electricity access in the world’s most impoverished places. According  one successful Solar Sister, “to progress, first you need light.”

Like most business ventures, many Solar Sisters report that their businesses are built largely on trust and willingness to “take risks.” Solar Sister empowers women by focusing intently on its founder and CEO Katherine Lucey’s motto that everyone deserves access to clean, affordable energy. By employing women’s personal knowledge about their peers’ and villages’ needs, the organization is quickly approaching Lucey’s goal by creating specialized clean energy solutions and promoting female entrepreneurship.

Hilaria’s Story

Hilaria Paschal, one of Solar Sister’s first entrepreneurs in Tanzania, began her journey with clean energy in 2013. She is a farmer, basket weaver, businesswoman, wife and mother of three. Paschal’s husband kick-started her company with minor capital, but she has managed the operation since. She purchased only 12 lights at her business’s conception, yet managed to sell 25 products in her first month. Since 2013, Paschal has sold nearly 400 products that now power more than 2,000 homes. She attributes her success to her specialized knowledge of her village’s needs and to her immense creativity.

In 2015, Paschal formed Mshikamano, a group of basket weaving women ready to learn more about clean energy, entrepreneurship and the possibility of becoming a Solar Sister. Mshikamano translates to “solidarity” in Swahili, a perfect depiction of Solar Sister’s mission and Paschal’s work.

For her outstanding performance in the Solar Sister Program, Paschal was named the 2017 Women Entrepreneur of the Year by the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA). She was granted the opportunity to travel to New York, where she accepted her prize and was invited to speak at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum.

But Solar Sister’s praise and recognition does not end with Paschal. In 2015, former president Bill Clinton visited Solar Sister’s site in Karatu, Tanzania as a part of the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. His visit resulted in higher publicity for the organization and its entrepreneurial opportunities for women.

Solar Sister’s Impact

To date, Solar Sister has launched operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, where its 4,000 entrepreneurs have collectively reached more than 1.5 million people and broadened electricity access in some of the world’s most energy-poor countries. Solar Sister products include clean cooking stoves, regular solar lanterns and even solar-powered cell phone chargers, all of which can improve several facets of life and surpass the abilities of simple light.

In an effort to explain just how beneficial affordable, clean energy can be in developing countries, Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship conducted a 2017 study entitled, “Turning on the Lights: Transcending Energy Poverty Through the Power of Women Entrepreneurs.” The study concluded that Solar Sister provides much more than light to communities and opportunities for female entrepreneurs, as newly prosperous populations also experience an enhanced quality of healthcare and education. Women in particular are reaping the benefits of increased household incomes, greater respect in the workplace and higher economic statuses.

Empowering Women Helps Entire Communities

In addition, Solar Sister’s solar technology improves health and safety. Solar lanterns do not create the negative health effects that kerosene exposure causes, nor do they pose a fire hazard. Additionally, health clinics and hospitals can use solar lanterns to extend their services and increase their efficiency during night hours. In terms of education, 90% of parents believe their children have improved academically since obtaining increased access to light. This progress is partially due to children having more time to study at night, but mostly because kerosene savings can now be put toward education. Other benefits of solar power include eliminating the travel time required to acquire kerosene, which can now be used to work longer hours and increase household incomes. Higher incomes create more purchasing power and more opportunities for advancement which stimulates local, national and global economies. Overall, Solar Sister empowers women in Africa to live safer, financially secure lifestyles.

To follow the Solar Sister program and its progress, visit solarsister.org or search #IAmSolarSister on social media.

– Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Conservation and PovertyConservation efforts aim to preserve nature and ensure the proper utilization of natural resources. In recent decades, conservation has grown in popularity as the number of organizations fighting for it has increased substantially. Global poverty alleviation is another big cause with a large number of organizations fighting for it. Typically, conservation and poverty alleviation are considered conflicting forces; however, these three organizations are bringing the two together by turning environmental education into a poverty alleviator.

Aid for Africa

Aid for Africa is a network of many poverty organizations working to improve the communities in Africa. This alliance work aims to make a difference in every area of life in Africa, including fighting against environmental issues in the continent.

In its mission, the organization stresses the importance of finding solar solutions to fix environmental issues to ensure it will not hinder the economic development of the continent. Combining its efforts in conservation and poverty alleviation allows Aid for Africa to simultaneously take multiple approaches towards helping communities in need.  It focuses on fixing environmental problems on a broad scale through community-based programs to protect the rich biodiversity on the continent.

Children in the Wilderness

Children in the Wilderness focuses its efforts on conservation and protecting wildlife in multiple African nations; however, it is more specific in its cause than the previous organization. The non-profit centers around preserving the environment in Africa by educating young children, promoting leadership positions, and training programs. These opportunities help African children economically as it could connect them to job options and provides assistance programs and scholarships to those participating in the organization.

The organization shows success in uniting conservation and poverty relief as it changes the trajectory of many youths’ lives through scholarships and leadership positions. For instance, in 2018, Child in Wilderness awarded 602 scholarships to children at different education levels. Its leadership program also shows its success as the non-profit trained 249 individuals to become Eco-Mentor leaders within Children in Wilderness.

Solar Sister

Solar Sister is an organization that brings together conservation and poverty eradication by empowering women. It focuses on rural African communities and provides women entrepreneurs with education on clean energy. The organization encourages community-based leadership as the entrepreneurs go back to their communities to share solar technology with others in their towns.

The organization’s work creates a cycle of poverty alleviation. When the organization teaches individuals to run businesses in their communities, it increases women’s economic independence, allowing them to escape poverty. As a result, their rural communities benefit as clean energy gives them a safer power with helping the environment. For example, 90% of those who received solar power felt safer after buying it and the equipment reduced their cookstove fuel usage by over 50%. It also allows customers to become entrepreneurs themselves. For instance, 14,000 of those who bought solar products became Solar Sister entrepreneurs.

Although the organizations have different plans of approach, all are making a difference in the fight for conservation and poverty alleviation. Thus, revealing how fighting two distinct issues can be solved together in a mutually beneficial way.

– Erica Burns

Photo: Flickr

Solar Sister: A Solution for Energy Poverty NationsCurrently, there is an energy disparity worldwide, and not everyone has equal access to energy resources. This growing trend is most notable in less developed nations, most particularly in rural regions of the countries. Energy is one of the most vital resources for the development of a nation; without it, countries are left to follow a path with no progression.

World Bank Vice President Rachel Kyte stated: “Access to energy is absolutely fundamental in the struggle against poverty…it is energy that lights the lamp that lets you do your homework, that keeps the heat on in a hospital, that lights the small businesses where most people work. Without energy, there is no economic growth, there is no dynamism, and there is no opportunity.”

A lack of energy leaves less-developed nations without a necessary resource that allows them to improve their developmental industries, healthcare and education. Without the essential access to energy, less developed nations are left to resort to biomass energy, a type of renewable that utilizes organic materials such as wood for fuel. But there are drawbacks to relying on biomass energy, such as the release of carbon dioxide and the overharvesting of organic material.

Wood is one of the most common sources used for cooking, and greatly affects both women and children, according to National Geographic. “About 3.5 million people, mainly women and children, die each year from respiratory illness due to harmful indoor air pollution from wood and biomass cookstoves.” Women and children are more impacted by the effects of energy poverty because of their heavy interactions with the use of biomass materials (such as women cooking with wood-fueled cookstoves) and an inhibited ability to complete education (such as students being unable to do homework after dark).

Solar Sister is an organization dedicated to eradicating energy poverty by providing women with economic opportunities in rural regions of Africa. One of their main focuses is not only providing women with economic opportunities, but also supporting women’s access to sustainable energy resources.

Through Solar Sister, women are supplied with the necessary skills to create an effective business market within their communities. Once trained, the organization supplies women with solar lanterns to sell in their communities. Gradually, through interactions, communities come to trust the solar lantern and demand increases. With increased demand, communities gradually transition away from biomass energy to solar energy, a much safer and more accessible energy resource. As a woman’s interactions within the community increase, she becomes revered as a role model and is trusted throughout her community. That trust also allows the gender gap within small communities to decrease and further creates more opportunities for women. Not only do the women themselves benefit from the effects of Solar Sister, but the community in turn also benefits. Communities that transition away from biomass energy gain a cleaner source of energy, promoting an overall more sustainable environment and in turn a better quality of health and life.

Although Solar Sister primarily focuses on rural regions in Africa, the techniques and results derived from the organization pose a possible solution to the energy poverty trend. It is important to learn from Solar Sister’s success and use it as a stepping stone for future work in other countries.

– Carla Salas

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in TanzaniaThere are many countries in need of foreign assistance. Among the highest recipients of foreign aid are Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Tanzania, to name a few. Some people may find themselves wondering how to help people in Tanzania, while others may have little interest in the issue at all.

When it comes to fighting global poverty, feeling sympathetic towards those in need is a slippery slope of uselessness. What makes sympathy dangerous is that it often goes hand-in-hand with marginalization. Feeling sorry for the world’s poor does nothing but invoke quiet judgment and a subsequent divide between the affluent and the impoverished. Social change is only possible when individuals have empathy.

A lack of empathy between groups of people is a primary cause of conflict worldwide. A lack of empathy is often a result of the absence of contact between two parties. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.

A recent study published in the PNAS journal found that empathy increases significantly between two parties after just two shared positive experiences. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) fighting global poverty have long used jarring images and language to provoke pity in potential donors; the “guilt-trip,” essentially. However, there are growing concerns that such traditional methods can have a reverse effect.

When news of global poverty is overwhelmingly negative, the cause can seem hopeless, donations useless. Organizations such as The Borgen Project recognize this paradox and seek to supply readers with the bad and good news. Neither should be ignored.

Hope and a sentiment of personal efficacy are critical to ensuring the fight against global poverty maintains its vigor. So, know this: the world is waging a successful war against global poverty. In fact, global poverty has been more than halved in the past 20 years. With that information in mind, know too that the fight is far from won.

Take up arms and fight. There are numerous countries on the precipice of development, but just as many on the precipice of decline. Both require foreign aid brought about by empathy and hope.

Tanzania is one such country steadily pulling itself out of an impoverished past. Sixty-eight percent of the population survives on less than $1.25 a day. With newfound hope in the global fight, you may find yourself wondering how to help people in Tanzania. The outlets are endless

If you are concerned with the fundamental human right to healthcare, Dodomo Tanzania Health Development (DTHD) may be the perfect place for you to donate to. According to their website, DTHD’s mission is “to ensure high-quality, compassionate, Tanzanian-led health care for the people of Central Tanzania.”

Another important organization working in Tanzania is Feed the Children. One donation to Feed the Children can change a child’s life. The foundation can multiply your donation five times with the continued support of its corporate sponsors. The donation goes towards nutritious food, clean water, school and supplies and maybe even a goat for their family.

A third organization to which you may want to consider donating is Solar Sister, an organization which is helping to end “rural Africa’s energy poverty by empowering women to become clean energy entrepreneurs and bring light, hope and opportunity to their families and communities.”

There are many more answers to the question of how to help people in Tanzania. In fact, there are copious amounts of resources to help every country in need. It only takes a few active engagements with those in need to nourish a long-term, valuable empathetic bond. Perhaps just one person’s involvement with humanitarian aid could start an influential chain reaction.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Flickr

solar_sister
At a time when only 24 percent of sub-Saharan Africa has access to electricity, the grassroots organization Solar Sister is taking a woman-centered approach to ending energy poverty in the region.

Solar Sister works at the community level to provide access to clean energy sources such as solar lanterns. By training and supporting women as they build their own businesses, the organization helps families in rural East Africa become more self-sufficient.

For $500, Solar Sister can provide a woman with a full lamp inventory, called a “business in a bag.” Using an Avon distribution model, the entrepreneur goes door to door, selling solar lights and other green technologies to neighbors and family members. She earns a commission on all products sold, which she can use to supplement her family’s income and expand her business.

Katherine Lucey, founder of Solar Sister, says that energy access is necessary for economic growth. With light, people can continue to work after dark and increase their productivity; children can study for longer and do better in school. Those without electricity are therefore at a disadvantage, trapped in poverty.

For this reason, Solar Sister focuses its work in places like rural Uganda, where close to 95 percent of the population lacks access to electricity. In communities that are far from the electrical grid, people depend on kerosene lamps for light. Using kerosene is not only expensive, but also dangerous, since lamps can emit toxic fumes.

Before founding Solar Sister in 2009, Lucey worked for a nonprofit on large-scale solar power projects. When she realized that these projects were doing little to help those living in poverty, she decided to try a new approach.

“The technology that we were using – the solar panel, the PVC, etc., was very ‘techie,’” Lucey explains. “And we were in homes where there was no technology. So, the women didn’t have a comfort zone with the technology.”

Solar Sister’s products, on the other hand, are simple to use: the solar lanterns charge outside during the day, then provide light at night with the flip of a switch. The lights, which have 10-year lifespans, cost between $15 and $50. Compared to the price of kerosene, which costs around $2 a week, the light pays for itself in a matter of months.

The money a woman earns from selling these products provides her and her family with more economic freedom. Mityana, a Solar Sister entrepreneur from central Uganda, says “It makes me feel proud to see that I’m bringing an income to my family.” So far, the organization has partnered with over 1,000 women entrepreneurs to bring clean energy to more than 180,000 people in East Africa.

Lucey notes that in almost all cases, the women use their earnings to provide education for their children. She hopes that this new, educated generation will help lift rural communities out of poverty.

Caitlin Harrison

Sources: CNN, CS Monitor, USAID, World Bank
Photo: World Bank

avon
Approximately 5% of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa enjoys access to electricity. In an area where sunlight is abundant, solar power is an excellent alternative energy selection. Solar Sister, a registered nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women through solar power, chose to develop the solar-tech industry in sub-Saharan Africa and is taking a unique approach in doing so.

Inspired by Avon cosmetics’ style of distribution system where one woman distributes products by contacting her network of family and friends, the Solar Sister program provides a unique, single-investment approach to social entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. Because the network is built on connections between women, the program can extend to rural communities, places traditionally untouched by energy companies.

The startup kit — the “business in a bag” — that each new entrepreneur receives includes everything each woman needs to start her own business in solar-powered innovation technology. The capital provided by Solar Sister gives each member of the community the funds to get started at only $500 a bag. Micro-financing from individual donors combined with corporate investments make up the organization’s capital for these investments and are eventually paid back by the women involved.

Being a part of the Solar Sister team provides much needed income to women and their families by investing in women on a micro-financing level. As indicated on the Solar Sister website, $1 invested generates $46 for the solar sister and her customers in the first year alone. And not only does the organization’s investment empower women to build both family and community, it also falls in line with the global green movement to move away from traditional energy sources, such as kerosene.

The Solar Sister program addresses two major issues in sub-Saharan Africa in their alternative energy-based solution to poverty. To support the initiative, help the environment, and invest in women’s empowerment, click here.

– Herman Watson

Source: Avon, Solar Sister
Photo: Kiva