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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