Solar Sisters: Lighting Up Communities

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Many across the world still live in a world where clean energy is not available to them; instead, they must rely on expensive and often hazardous ways to light up their homes and businesses at night. As a result, many lag behind because they cannot be as productive as others, and many miss out on opportunities just because they do not have the basic need of clean energy. This can affect school students who cannot continue to study once night falls, or small businesses that have to close their shops because light is unavailable.

Hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people across Africa do not have access to clean sources of energy for lighting. Many households in rural areas and places that are not connected to the electric grid rely on kerosene lamps and firewood, both posing great hazards to one’s safety. In 2011, it was estimated that people not connected to the grid spend USD 4.4 billion each year on kerosene alone.

This just goes to show the high demand for lighting; if this money is spent on other avenues of clean energy, it would make a drastic change to these communities. Not only would their reliance on inefficient energy decrease, clean energy is safer and more consistent. There are many ventures and projects that are trying to bring about such changes, by introducing solar lamps, LED lighting, and efficient batteries; one such venture is “Solar Sisters”.

Usually, it is women who are in charge of procuring fuel to light up their homes and cook meals. Many walk long distances on a daily basis just to have enough to get by for the day; as such, it is no surprise that many of the ventures trying to provide people with clean alternatives to light energy are targeting women. Solar Sisters follows women’s distribution system, where women are recruited and trained, then start selling Solar Sister products.

Solar Sisters offer products such as solar lamps and solar chargers that can be charged using sunlight, providing electricity when needed. These are affordable solar lighting units, and are just a one-time cost, which is more cost efficient than kerosene on the long run. The women in Solar Sisters use their community networks to market the products to their families and neighbors, and also use those connections to recruit others to the Solar Sisters network.

This model creates opportunities for women to improve their living conditions; not only because they now have access to a clean source of light, but they also feel empowered by being able to earn money from marketing solar products, since they receive a commission when they sell a product. There are more than 270 entrepreneurs, who joined Solar Sister in Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan. The group is looking forward to spread to more countries where rural and poorer communities are left in the dark once the Sun sets; by targeting women, they are giving them the opportunity to drastically improve their quality of life.

Interested to learn more about Solar Sisters? Check out the following video:

References
www.solarsister.org
edition.cnn.com
 

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