Thursday, August 1, 2013

Barefoot Solar Engineers

It is not everyday one finds women electricians in Africa, let alone rural women with basic literacy skills.

Four rural women in Karambi village in Bugesera District, Eastern Rwanda, have become heroes in their village for being able to assemble, install and maintain household solar equipment. 
The women are members of RWN community women supported groups and were selected from homecare givers and paralegals with the involvement of the community, according to their ability and leadership skills. 
The women attended 6 months’ training in 2010 at the Barefoot College in India, and would return to the village as Barefoot Solar Engineers able to put electricity in every house. The village has just over 110 households. The project was in collaboration with the college and the Rwanda United Kingdom Goodwill Organization (RUGO).

Provision of energy to rural villages is one of the key targets in Rwanda’s Vision 2020 strategy. Access to energy has been proven to encourage and support economic growth and development through the generation of non- agricultural based employment and increased opportunities for economic generating activities and important activities such as children studying in the evening.

Enabling households with solar electricity has propelled the women to a higher status in the community, as well as being role models to girls in the village. All houses in the village pay a small monthly fee to maintain the equipment,  provide an income for the women and set up a “sinking fund” for future replacement of worn out components. 

More than 100 households now have electricity, and the women are now demonstrating their skills through their women’s group at an international trade exhibition in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to assist other villages.

Rwanda Women's Network (RWN) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.
For more on IIE , ACE or RWN please follow the links below.