Halima takes the lead in her community. She is the ambassador for her village women’s group, a local government representative and runs the women’s saving and loans group. She’s also an entrepreneur, using her local networks to spread clean energy.
Halima signed up to be a Solar Sister entrepreneur in 2015, tentatively buying two small solar lights, to see if it could work. She was already farming and selling vegetables. But with all the responsibility of running a house and raising children, she was looking for any and all opportunities to improve her income. She is also a local leader and so always looking for ways to transform her community.
I decided to be a Solar Sister entrepreneur because I like to work with community, especially women. I wanted to bring positive changes to my community.
Halima lives in a village in the northern Tanzanian region of Kilimanjaro, not far Africa’s highest mountain, where mainline electricity has yet to reach. When she started with Solar Sister, Halima joined a Sisterhood group, where she met other women entrepreneurs and learned more about clean energy technology, as well as the key skills to run a sustainable business.
She saw that other businesses were not bringing much income and were not as flexible and mobile as Solar Sister.
“With Solar Sister, you just put your products in a bag and go get people involved.”
Since then she has sold over 200 products to neighbors, friends and community members, bringing the myriad benefits of clean energy to more than 1,000 people, and counting. Halima’s advice to her fellow women? “I advise women to avoid fear and start doing business!”
Despite her fearlessness and energy, Halima faced the usual challenges of doing business in rural Tanzania. When she wanted to branch out to more communities, she was up against poor, unreliable and costly transport options and sparsely spaced communities. In 2016, Solar Sister supported Halima and her fellow entrepreneurs with bicycles to help them expand their businesses to nearby communities.
“In the communities where I sell, I see people are benefitting. They no longer buy kerosene and so they can start to save. Customers are really happy. They started out buying the small lights and now I get more regular orders for the larger systems.”
Halima adds that trust is a key part of her business success. She knows her community and is respected as a leader. She also intimately understands the health hazards and expense of kerosene lamps and woodfire stoves, the only energy options available to most where she lives.
“People see that these are products have a guarantee and you cannot find this service anywhere else.”
The products Solar Sister offers rarely have issues, she says, and when they do she replaces them under the manufacturer’s warranty.
In 2017, Halima was chosen to attend a summit for the top Solar Sister entrepreneurs in Tanzania. She was one of just four entrepreneurs who won the Women & Energy Champion Award for 2017. For Halima, the reward was both an acknowledgement and an inspiration.
I didn’t believe it when I heard I got the award! It’s like a dream. It gives me heart to continue the work.
Today, Halima continues the hard work of clean energy enterprise, growing her own business and opening up off-grid communities to clean and affordable power.
She has branched out from small portable lights to larger home solar systems, mobile phone chargers and even solar radios.
While keeping an eye on her business and taking care of her household, Halima keeps one eye on future plans. Three of her children married and left home, and her youngest wants to continue his studies in secondary school. She wants to send him to school.
Beyond this, Halima has a lot of plans and dreams.
“I was in a mud hut before, but now I’ve been able to save over time, and build my house. My future goal is still to rear chickens and hopefully cows. Ideally, I would like to open a solar shop so that I can supply solar to more people.”