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Women Solar Light Entrepreneurs Energize African Communities

Julieth Mollel sells clean cookstoves and solar lanterns at the market outside of Arusha, Tanzania. Photo credit: Joanna Pinneo/Ripple Effect Images/Solar Sister

Julieth Mollel sells clean cookstoves and solar lanterns at the market outside of Arusha, Tanzania. Photo credit: Joanna Pinneo/Ripple Effect Images/Solar Sister

Julieth Mollel in on a mission—to transform her life and the lives of her neighbors through light.  Julieth is one of thousands of women who is working to end energy poverty.  She is doing it by selling solar lanterns and clean cookstoves in her community near Arusha, Tanzania.

Energy poverty is the lack of access to electricity and other modern energy services.  In Sub Sahara Africa, more than 600 million people do not have access to electricity. And that number is rising, spurred by increasing population, according to the International Energy Agency.

Without modern energy sources, women spend long hours searching for fuel wood for their traditional stoves. Traditional stoves are associated with indoor pollution and adverse health effects that include respiratory infections, cancer and lung diseases.  Families also spend precious resources on kerosene to fuel lanterns at night. More often their houses are dark.

Julieth used to cook the traditional way—using three stones and an open fire pit—which required a lot of firewood. She collected the wood daily—a chore that grew as sources of fuel wood took longer to reach.

Then in 2013, Solar Sister, an Aid for Africa member, brought its solar lights and efficient cookstoves to Tanzania and began to seek out would-be entrepreneurs. Solar Sister recruits, trains and supports clean energy entrepreneurs.

Julieth learned about solar lanterns and clean cookstoves that use much less wood than traditional way of cooking and create very little smoke. Not only could she buy them, she learned that she could sell them as well. That’s when her mission began!

Julieth’s grandsons are able to study after dinner using a solar lantern. Photo credit: Joanna Pinneo/Ripple Effect Images/Solar Sister

Julieth’s grandsons are able to study after dinner using a solar lantern. Photo credit: Joanna Pinneo/Ripple Effect Images/Solar Sister

Julieth’s cookstove uses a fraction of the firewood of her traditional three-stone fire. It also produces a cleaner and more efficient fire, reducing health risks. Her solar lights allow her four grandchildren to do school work in the evening.

Through Solar Sister Julieth received the mentoring, training, and business support she needed to successfully build her businesses and reach more people. With the money she earns selling solar lights and cookstoves, she pays her grandchildren’s school fees.  Julieth says that she now has hope for her future and the future of her grandchildren.

Solar Sister believes in a world where women, girls and their communities have access to the sustainable energy they need to create a prosperous life. Julieth is on her way.

Founded in 2010, by Katherine Lucey, Solar Sister has helped 2,700 women entrepreneurs in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria and more than 700,000 people who have gained access to light and energy through Solar Sister businesses.

“We in the west take access to power and light for granted, but for these families solar power means safe and reliable light, access to communications, and the ability to live above a subsistence level, “ Katherine Lucey said.

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Adapted from a blog by Solar Sister and Ripple Effect Images.