Empowering women entrepreneurs in off grid rural communities
Energy poverty in rural and developing communities affects all members of these communities, but often the women in such families understand the effects of energy starvation on their families the most. Research suggests that quality of life benefits from increased energy access (welfare, access to information, etc) are felt most keenly by women, who often spend more time in the home.
The Clinton initiative has reported that, on average, women spend up to 90% of their income on their families, which is much higher than the 35% reported for men . The highest proportion of this spending is often related to their children’s health, education and well-being. By enabling these mothers to generate more income through entrepreneurship, it will in turn enrich their families and the local community around them.
Solar lighting positively affects income-generating activities across diverse industries. Research from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship found that business ventures affected by solar lighting spanned nine broad household economic activities, including artisanal activities, retail, farming, animal husbandry, and service professions. This variety shows the versatility and practicality of solar lighting across various sectors, in both indoor and outdoor work (Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Turning on the Lights, 2016).
The IMPHORAA project aims to give access to reliable and cheap solar power in rural communities in the Philippines. This, in turn, will open many avenues for local women to begin their own opportunities with the possibility of longer working days. IMPHORAA also offers ways for customers to gain training and skills in order for them to build their own business and offer solar energy packages to others in their local community. This allows them to earn a salary alongside commissions for every sale they make. This has been trialled and tested in the field in Madagascar by Nanoè and has been found to uplift these rural communities. Giving access to electricity alongside offering a means of earning extra income are the first massive steps towards elevating these areas out of poverty.
This will by no means be a small impact either, as seen in a report from Solar Sister , electrified villages boost employment rates by up to 13.5% for women, with slightly lower values for men.
This project is supported by Innovate UKs Energy Catalyst Programme (funding by the Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office through their Transforming Energy Access Programme) and UK aid and was awarded as a “subsidy” under the UK International Obligations for Subsidy Control and delivered under Grant 90935 from Innovate UK.