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The Solar Mamas of Malawi
By María V. R.
The Solar Mama rural electrification program simultaneously brings electricity to rural communities whilst empowering women through education and training. These eight women live in an area of Malawi (Africa) that has no central electricity. Even though none of the women had finished school, they were selected by the charity Voluntary Service Overseas to train in India to become solar engineers. They are now using these skills to light the way for their villages by installing cost-free solar power. One example of how this has changed people’s live is Lines Nguluwe. She had lived in poverty, but now she uses her solar-powered oven to make donuts for sale, and also has a new form of income charging people's phones at her home.
This is also a story about self empowerment for women in a part of the world where they are degraded and discriminated against. These semi-literate women, who had failed to complete primary school, were trained to build and maintain solar powered lighting and generators. They have become local heroes by bringing sustainable, low cost energy to their communities. The impact of the project has not only increased the self-esteem and self-reliance of the Solar Mamas, but it has also changed the perception of women’s roles in the community.