Solar Sister provides women with clean energy technology. Communities without access to energy sources are more likely to live in impoverished conditions, and there is a strong gender discrepancy in access to power sources. Women and girls represent seventy percent of the 1.6 billion people globally without access to electricity.
Solar Sister seeks to provide women with access to clean energy technology such as solar powered lanterns, solar mobile phone charging solutions and clean cook stoves. The organization uses an entrepreneurial, female-based sales network to further its goals.
Solar Sister began as a pilot project in 2009 by training ten Ugandan women. Since then, they have grown to 171 women entrepreneurs operating in Uganda alone, and have expanded to Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Nigeria. This women-led micro-business model has so far brought solar energy to more that 31,000 Africans. Solar Sister uses a micro-consignment model for sales, and provides a starter inventory with training and marketing support for female entrepreneurs.
The Solar Sister program has already been very successful. They have helped achieve a thirty percent decrease in household kerosene expenses, along with an improved quality and duration of light by an additional three hours (in comparison to households still using kerosene). Increasing the supply of light results in safer living conditions, particularly for women and children in remote African communities. Furthermore, it increases studying time for children attending school.
Solar Sister’s lanterns have an average of a ten-year lifespan. Within that, one lantern will replace approximately 60 liters of kerosene, which results in 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In the next ten years, Solar Sister hopes to mitigate approximately 10 million tones of CO2 through its solar lanterns. Parallel to lantern sales, Solar Sister’s solar mobile phone chargers are replacing the use of batteries, which are often not disposed of properly in rural communities.
They group is also introducing clean cook stove technology to further limit cooking with kerosene and wood burning stoves. Women and children are often the most exposed to toxic fumes from spending time utilizing traditional cook stoves and open fires. These clean technology products are improving household air quality and overall public health, protect the local environment through limiting factors that increase climate change, and create economic opportunities for women throughout Africa.
Strong Regional Partnerships
Solar Sister has agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) to pair their organization with AWF’s conservation programming in Tanzania and Kenya. In addition, Solar Sister has a partnership in Kenya with the Green Belt Movement, an organization that was lead by Dr. Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her environmentalist and gender work in 2004. In Nigeria, Solar Sister has partners with Azsa Microfinance Bank Ltd and with SOSAI renewable energy company. These strong regional partnerships ensure Solar Sister’s longevity and credibility throughout Africa.