Women are the solution to energy poverty

March 06, 2018

International Women’s Day started over a hundred years ago, rooted in the suffragette movement pushing for women’s right to vote. Today Solar Sister is pushing for progress on energy poverty, because it has devastating consequences for women.

Imagine you are one of over 300 million African women who wake up and go to bed without reliable power. Life is organized differently. Daylight hours are more important. At night, you buy candles, kerosene or batteries for lamps and torches, or fuel if you are lucky enough to have a generator. You pay to get your mobile phone charged every few days. If you want your children to read in the evening, you make sure your flashlight hasn’t run out of batteries.

To make dinner, you start early because it takes time — from collecting wood to making a fire to preparing produce to cooking the meal. You and your children will likely have stinging eyes and breathing problems from the woodsmoke. The baby you carry on your back may develop serious health problems. You and your daughters will have to go further and further to cut trees for cooking. You may not boil drinking water to conserve fuel. Your daughter may collect water in the dark. You may wash dishes in the dark light of a kerosene lamp. You may look after a sick family member in the dark. You may give birth in the dark.

This is energy poverty.

Pollution from smoky wood stoves like this one cause 4.3 million premature deaths.


For the great majority of low-income communities where we work, the burdens of energy poverty fall on women. Women here are also the backbone of the economy — farming, preparing produce, selling at market, producing goods, and running side businesses such as traditional crafts or making drinks and snacks to sell at the roadside.

At Solar Sister, we know that solar and other forms of clean energy are the best way to power off-grid homes and communities. From an urban health clinic to a family compound in a remote village, we believe renewable energy technology brings the healthiest, safest, most sustainable and, ultimately, the cheapest way to power people’s lives and improve wellbeing.

The technology is there. Now let’s invest in local women to bring the technology home.

We continue to push for progress for local women in sub Saharan Africa. We know when local women start a successful business, they invest the extra income to improve their families and communities.

When women earn extra income, they use it on school fees, clothes, nutritious food, treatment for sickness. They use it to pay for land and for farm laborers that allow them to harvest more food. They are thinking of the next generation because they are responsible for them.

We know investing in local women is a win-win.

This is why we are pushing for progress on women in clean energy. From policy-makers and designers to educators and entrepreneurs, we need more women involved at all levels.

Everyone should have access to clean and sustainable energy — it makes sense for the planet and for the 1.3 billion people around the world in need of energy. The technology is there. Now let’s invest in local women to bring the technology home.