Beyond the Grid partner Solar Sister describes its work

Solar Sister Valentina Tiem from Tanzania demonstrates products to other women in her community. Image: -Solar Sister, 2014
Solar Sister Valentina Tiem from Tanzania demonstrates products to other women in her community.
Solar Sister, 2014

By Neha Misra, Chief Collaboration Officer, Solar Sister

Energy poverty issues disproportionately affect women and girls. Throughout Africa, women work in smoke filled indoor environments and spend hours collecting firewood. With two out of three sub-Saharan Africans — approximately 600 million people — lacking access to electricity, this means a high number of women are without power, leading to adverse impact on their health disparities and young girls having fewer opportunities to study.

As key household energy managers, women are at the center of solving energy poverty challenges both from supply and demand side of the value chains. For example, Valentina Tiem, a community leader in the rural town of Haydom in northern Tanzania, faces these realities every day. Valentina is responsible for mobilizing women in over 20 women's savings groups and serves as a community health worker, helping local women give birth. She’s a busy woman working relentlessly to make her community stronger.

Valentina is a Solar Sister entrepreneur, bringing life transforming solar and clean cooking solutions to her customers’ doorsteps, the women Valentina works with everyday. Solar Sister, one of the founding partners of Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid initiative, is an award winning social enterprise with a growing a network of entrepreneurs just like Valentina.

The benefits extend beyond the community of women and customers Valentina reaches. She is using the income from her clean energy business to pay school fees for her children and to buy cement for construction of her house. As a health worker, armed with her solar light and mobile phone charger, she is now readily available to respond readily to women in labor who depend on her. By using a solar lamp in her own home, she is saving money she previously spent on buying kerosene and now also has a brighter and smokeless source of light. Once the construction of her house is completed, Valentina’s wish is to equip it with an even larger solar power system.

Solar Sister recruits, trains and supports a women driven clean energy network in Africa. Image: -Solar Sister, 2014
Solar Sister recruits, trains and supports a women driven clean energy network in Africa.
Solar Sister, 2014

Solar Sister is recruiting, training and mentoring more and more African women as clean tech entrepreneurs to sell a basket of clean energy products - including portable solar lights and mobile phone chargers, larger solar solutions for homes, businesses and institutions, and clean cook stoves.

Many of these women are like Umoh Ebongo from Eket, Nigeria. Umoh first heard about Solar Sister’s business opportunity from her own sister, who is also a Solar Sister entrepreneur. A poultry farmer who first bought lamps so her chickens could see better in order to eat, Umoh then bought energy efficient cook stoves for her siblings to help them save both time and money. Seeing the benefits of Solar Sister’s products and customer service first hand, Umoh decided to become a Solar Sister entrepreneur.

Valentina and Umoh are not alone. Since 2009, more than 1,000 women across Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania have joined Solar Sister’s growing network, bringing cleaner energy to over 180,000 people. Solar Sister entrepreneurs’ stories highlight the intersection of energy prosperity and women’s economic empowerment that is powering Africa. One women entrepreneur at a time, Solar Sister has been ushering a grassroots clean energy revolution.

Solar Sister Umoh Ebongo from Nigeria started as a customer, and soon joined Solar Sister’s growing network as an entrepreneur h
Solar Sister Umoh Ebongo from Nigeria started as a customer, and soon joined Solar Sister’s growing network as an entrepreneur herself.
Copyright-Solar Sister, 2014

Public-private sector collaborations and innovations are at the heart of Beyond the Grid, and partners like Solar Sister are complimenting efforts to foster new linkages to strengthen off-grid supply chains. Solar Sister is scaling its impact through partnerships with manufacturers, grassroots women’s groups like the Mother’s Union of Uganda, conservation organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation, and key institutional partners, like the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, ENERGIA and the International Center for Research on Women. These efforts are leveraging Solar Sister’s existing collaboration with the State Department’s Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER) and USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV).

Solar Sister is demonstrating that while many communities are “beyond the grid”, nothing is beyond their reach if women are empowered.

Learn more at www.solarsister.org

Last updated: June 07, 2016

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