Solar Sister's Response to COVID-19 Pandemic: Trust. Sisterhood. Grit.

March 27, 2020

As we face the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic is creating, here at Solar Sister we are asking ourselves: how do we best keep those we love and those we serve safe? How do we best reach out and help our neighbors and the most vulnerable in our local and global community? How do we provide leadership and continued support in the face of so much uncertainty, fear, and disruption?

The work we do is even more important in this time of global crisis, as it is often those underserved communities we work with and for, who are disproportionately affected.

Our response is grounded in our core values: Trust. Sisterhood. Grit.

Trust: Even when we feel uncertain about the way forward and don’t know the path, we are certain that we can trust each other. We earn that trust by prioritizing the safety, health, and wellbeing of our team, our entrepreneurs, and our communities. We are putting clear policies in place to keep them safe and to protect their wellbeing. We commit to working through this by listening and adapting and being transparent in our actions.

Sisterhood: I have never felt more strongly the connection of our entire network and the power of all that we, as a global community, have in common. We are all in this together. The unshakeable connection between us, and the responsibility we have to one another, is our guiding light as we respond to these challenging times.

Grit: Nothing about this is easy. Our Solar Sister Entrepreneurs live in communities that often lack infrastructure and healthcare resources, putting them at greater risk for medical complications. Many are primary earners and most are primary caregivers for their families. The disruption of supply chains and transportation will put their incomes at risk. The onslaught of news that is bad, and seems to get worse each day, creates both uncertainty and anxiety. But Solar Sisters are intrepid, and we have seen already that we have the skills and mindset we need to deal with all of this. Our Solar Sister Entrepreneurs and our entire team is practiced at ‘doing the needful’, as they say in Tanzania. Grit is the secret sauce that has helped Solar Sister survive and thrive to date, and it will continue to see us through.

Today, I want to share the actions we are taking during this challenging period.

  • We have created a task force, composed of members from our Senior Leadership Team, to consistently monitor and assess the situation, consider how it affects operations, programs, development, grants, and staff, and determine appropriate action. 
  • We are following all local laws and guidelines in the countries and communities we work in.
  • We have instituted safe travel policies, including restrictions on all long-distance travel and limitations on local travel.
  • We have instituted a global “remote-working” policy which will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. We have always been a distributed workforce that uses technology to remain connected across the three countries we work in, and with this change we are further investing in the technology and training to support remote work and communications.
  • We have cancelled all in-person gatherings (meetings/trainings/conferences) and will move these to remote, wherever possible, or postpone them to a later time.
  • We are supporting our Solar Sister Entrepreneurs with increased mobile communications, one-on-one mentoring, and product delivery methods that enable them to continue their businesses, while reducing risk of catching or spreading the virus.
  • We are leveraging the position of trust and leadership that we have established in rural communities to promote knowledge about how the virus is spread and how people can protect themselves and we are working with partners to leverage our last-mile distribution channels to bring home health kits to our Solar Sister Entrepreneurs and their communities.
  • We are remembering to work with compassion and grace. Change and uncertainty can cause anxiety. Working with technology is incredibly efficient and productive, but can also be stressful and isolating for those who are used to connecting in person. Thus,  we are also remembering to reach out to simply check in with team members and give permission to practice balance and compassionate self-care.

Our work continues.  Energy access is essential, and our mission of supporting women entrepreneurs to deliver clean energy to their communities is more important than ever.

Even as the effects of COVID-19 are still unfolding, we will continue to support our Solar Sister Entrepreneurs. Our work is more needed now than ever before. We expect that the prospects of women in Africa will be impacted as they bear greater risk to economic turmoil and greater responsibility for family care. We will continue working to understand their needs and work with them to enable them to reach their full potential. We will do everything possible to ensure we scale up rather than scale back our impact even in these challenging times.

In spite of the challenges, I truly remain hopeful. We are capable of extraordinary things when we come together. We have an opportunity to respond with trust, sisterhood and grit to create an even more compassionate, stronger, and more resilient organization that meets the needs of our communities in the days and months to come.

In closing, I send you my deepest wishes for the safety and good health of you and your families. We are grateful to be part of a compassionate community of supporters and partners. You enable us to bring light, hope and opportunity to women, their families, and their communities each and every day, but especially during this critical time.

In light and love,

Katherine Lucey