Empower Generation: combatting gender inequality and energy poverty through women-led social businesses

Description of the project: EG builds women-led clean energy distribution networks that deliver life improving  products (e.g. solar lanterns and home systems; efficient appliances) to energy poor rural communities. Targeting rural women who own and run their own business, or work as door-to-door sales agents, EG builds their capacity through training and business support. Women are trained on how to run successful businesses, distribute clean energy solutions, and become leaders in their communities. In 2012, their first woman-led energy business in Nepal was set up. Today, their network includes 20 women-led businesses, in 15 districts, with 270 sales agents. Since 2017 EG has also started a pilot project in Myanmar.

Climate impact: As of June, EG’s network has displaced 12,409 CO2 and provided cleaner, safer homes to 284,640 rural customers. EG’s model is a market-based, sustainable solution for human and environmental suffering caused by climate change. They provide affordable energy alternatives and sanitary water upgrades. The project mitigates climate change, as it shifts the rural households’ consumption of fossil fuels to sustainable energy.

Gender impact: EG works with marginalized women, such as indigenous and Dalit (untouchable) women, with limited education. 99% of CEOs and sales agents start off living below the poverty line; just one year of working for EG brings them above it. Many women go back to school or start their own ventures afterwards. This year, because of their public leadership of social businesses, over half of the entrepreneurs in EG’s network were nominated in Nepal’s national elections and many won seats in local governments.

Scalability / replicability: Leveraging a woman-to-woman sales dynamic, by 2018 EG aims to have employed 1,100 women and provided energy access to 1,2 million people. The model’s educational part can be replicated and EG also provides ongoing support to the women-led distribution networks. Their model’s two prong approach (women’s social and economic empowerment; reduction of fossil fuels) to development can be implemented and scaled up for the estimated 1,2 billion people globally access to reliable electricity.

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Light Every Birth: solar suitcases for maternal health care

Description of the project: We Care Solar addresses global maternal-newborn health by providing reliable and renewable electricity to power the lighting, communication, and medical devices essential for obstetric care. Around the world, clinicians struggle in near-darkness to provide lifesaving care in facilities lacking electricity. The “Light Every Birth” initiative has brought solar suitcases to public health facilities throughout five African countries, equipping over 4,000 maternal health centers. The 12-volt DC solar electric system includes medical lights, headlamps, a fetal heart-rate monitor and installation hardware. This initiative facilitates timely, quality care for women and newborns in last-mile health centers; it is a model for gender-sensitive energy transition.

Climate impact: We Care Solar suitcases replace fossil fuel sources of lighting, such as candles, kerosene lanterns, oil wick lamps, and diesel fuel generators, reducing carbon dioxide formation, improving air quality, and removing the risk of fire. After deploying more than 4,000 solar suitcases in partnership with NGOs and UN agencies, about 40,000 tons of CO2 emissions could be reduced. By providing solar energy, the initiative is making rural health centers a model of renewable energy for communities.

Gender impact:
Foremost, the initiative improves life chances for women and newborns in regions with persistently high maternal and neonatal mortality rates and low rates of energy access. Due to the lack of female solar installers, a “Women Solar Ambassador” program was launched to develop training materials showcasing women as installers and to promote women trainers for capacity-building on solar installation and maintenance. An educational program encourages more girls to enter STEM fields.

Scalability: The solar suitcases as well as educational and capacity-building programs can be rolled-out in more areas. A best practice guide for scale-up has been developed in this regard. A replicable model includes sharing decision-making with local agencies, creating steering committees with key stakeholders, training local technicians and healthcare workers in solar maintenance, providing ongoing technical support, and ensuring eventual handover of the programs into local and national governments.

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Empowered women ensure community-based forest preservation

Description of the project: Three organizations in the central districts of Nepal -Kathmandu, Makwanpur, and Sarlah- are promoting aromatic herb plantation and essential oil production, ecotourism, and handicraft development in 13 community forests over 1,375 hectares. More than 4000 households benefit from the project, contributing to surveying the trees, revising forest management plans, and establishing plant nurseries in conjunction with economic activities. Community based ecotourism policies were strengthened, and three women-led forestry enterprises were successfully registered and operated, producing market-recognized forest products to improve local livelihoods.

Climate impact: These nepalese districts suffer from deforestation due to rapid population growth, overuse of fuelwood, and clear felling under electric lines. Participatory development of new plans demonstrating sustainable forest management (SFM) practices, alongside capacity-building through SFM training, effectively counters the deforestation. Nurseries have supported the planting of 175,000 trees, and the distribution of improved cookstoves, including biogas units, reduces future fuelwood demand. Ecotourism policy-strengthening has also provided a foundation for SFM to continue.

Gender impact: 551 women have directly benefited from trainings, economic opportunities, and received appliances. Basic and advanced handicraft training led to two profitable enterprises. Along with an aromatic herb plantation, these enterprises are generating income and giving women greater autonomy over their daily spending. SFM training has supported the equal involvement of women in community forest monitoring and management. The additional distribution of solar panels for lighting and improved cookstoves has enabled more time flexibility, reduced fuel-gathering labor, and improved health.

Scalability: This work is able to be replicated to support women’s economic upliftment in Nepal. The plantation of aromatic herbs is particularly identified as a model for replication. The Government of Nepal’s emphasis on eco-tourism promotion, forest based enterprises and SFM will contribute to the sustainability and scalability of this approach. To reach policy makers and other audiences in Nepal, a wide range of communication tools were employed, including local media coverage, brochures and documentary filmmaking.

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Indigenous women in Nepal recover from earthquake disaster through climate resilient farming

Description of the project: The project aims at empowering indigenous women and securing their rights after natural disasters by helping them practice resilient farming. In the Thami and Bankaria indigenous communities, women groups have built their capacity via trainings on soil testing, selecting and preserving seeds, maintaining plant nurseries, preparing organic fertiliser, using integrated pest management, and selling vegetables in farmers’ markets. Envisioned with a sustainable, rights based approach, this project has empowered marginalised women and communities to rebuild their livelihoods after the devastating earthquake.

Climate impact: The project helps decrease GHG emissions through ecological techniques such as the production and use of organic fertilizer from household waste and the production and use of organic pesticides from local plants and vegetables. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on the long-term prevention of pests through a combination of methods: biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties.

Gender impact: This project aims to improve the economic status of marginalised indigenous women. Their consent was prioritized and their multiple workloads kept in mind before conducting any activities. To ensure equal access to benefits, Women Farmers Groups were established to keep useful savings. The shared knowledge on indigenous women’s human rights and collective rights boosted the trainees to self-advocate for their rights as women, wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers.

Scalability / replicability: This project has been a great success in bringing change in the lives of Thami indigenous
women of Dolakha, Bankariya and indigenous women of Hadikhola. Now they are fully engaged in agriculture based on IPM, a cost effective natural technique. To replicate this project, interested communities can visit the Thami and Bankariya from Dolokha and Makwanpur to observe and understand the importance of this simple, climate friendly technique of vegetable farming.

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Promoting climate resilience for women through biodynamic farming and water-retaining vegetables

Description of the project: This Aabash Memorial Foundation (AMF) project empowers marginalized women facing climate change and water scarcity in the Khokana community, Nepal, through practical assessments and trainings on environmental resilience. Actions are put in place through knowledge dissemination on climate impacts; along with practical assessments. Women are empowered to be self-reliant in terms of decision-making concerning water-retaining vegetables for improved cropping, knowledge of biodynamic farming systems, climate change impacts, and sustainable measures that would help to build adaptive capacity during water scarcity on their farm lands.

Climate impact: This project focuses on food security and water availability, through biodynamic farming, water-retaining vegetables, and rainwater harvesting. Activities include awareness programs in schools/colleges/women’s groups, group technique discussions, and solar demonstration. Key indicators of affordability and sustainability include increased food supply with water-retaining crops; reduced working hours and time spent to fetch water; less conflicts, and revenue from vermicomposting fertilisers.

Gender impact: The most crucial part of this project is to empower women and girls living in a community with low literacy rate. The project also aims to empower them by teaching about climate change impacts, sustainable solutions, solar demonstration training, rainwater harvesting system, etc. Besides that, women and girls also learn vermicomposting with solid waste and they would sell the compost to generate revenue.

Scalability / replicability: The vermicomposting component of this project could be scaled-up through training. This would reduce solid waste and produce cleaner environment, thus contributing to climate change mitigation. The biodynamic farming system using water-retaining crops could also be widely replicated. It takes less time as well as addresses issues such as natural resource management and building higher adaptive capacity among women to mitigate water scarcity.

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