Women are a central part of projects that are making a difference in the developing world. Women have distinguished themselves as sustainability leaders on the world stage, but there are other unsung heroines who are quietly engaged on the front lines of the clean energy revolution. These women are not only earning a fair wage they are challenging restrictive and dysfunctional gender stereotypes.
Women are part of the extraordinary growth of solar energy and they are riding a wave of innovative financing. Solar enterprises are spawning progressive business models. From home solar projects in rural Bangladesh to staffing power stations in Morocco, women are playing a central role. They are providing distributed solar devices and clean cook-stoves in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. They are also getting much needed training to be clean energy technicians and managers in places like Ghana.
Here are five examples of women who are working on solar projects in the developing world. These five projects are referenced in the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate report. The Commission is comprised of 28 former heads of state. In 2013 several governments commissioned the report and it was recently delivered to the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
1. A government led financing program is helping women bring home solar electricity to rural Bangladesh. This results based program provides subsidies for those who require assistance. The training and employment of women is the pillar of its business model.
2. The 580 MW Ouarzazate Solar Power Station (OSPA) aka the Noor Solar complex in Morocco has developed targeted training programs for women. The $9 billion project will not only produce solar power it will store it in molten salt, making it the largest plant of its kind. Commercial operation is scheduled to start in 2019. Through a partnership with Faculte Poly-disciplinaire d’Ouarzazate, they are training women and providing leadership opportunities.
3. Solar Sister is one of the most successful projects in Africa. The social enterprise is led by women and it benefits people in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. Their mission is to eradicate poverty through the sale and delivery of clean energy services. The program trains, and guides women to build networks and sell solar devices and clean cook-stoves. So far more than 2,500 entrepreneurs have provided services to 350,000 people.
4. In Ghana, the Lady Volta Vocational Centre for Electricity and Solar Power, trains women to work as technicians and managers in clean energy. It started as a collaboration of non-profit organizations but it is now partnered with Schneider Electric. The program has enabled dozens of women to become certified by the government to work in various clean energy trades. A new course helps women to pass the Ghana Energy Commission exam thereby making them eligible for management positions.
5. Grameen Shakti is the most long-lived project in the group, this Bangladeshi social impact non-profit trains and employs women to provide cleaner energy technologies including home solar and stoves. Affordable financing options make these technologies accessible to the average person. Women do it all including promotion, construction, installation and maintenance. Even the training sessions are run by female engineers. So far more than 3,000 women have been trained as renewable energy technicians at one of 16 Grameen Technology Centres (GTC),
Whether supported by government, public companies or private investors, these solar projects demonstrate that there are multiple benefits associated with empowering women in the developing world.
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