Renewable energy is empowering women

Expanding access to electricity in the developing world with renewables is creating economic opportunities for women through assisting businesses, microfinance and longer workdays.

NGOs such Barefoot College are providing economic opportunities for women in rural communities

Expanding access to electricity in the developing world with renewables is creating economic opportunities for women through assisting businesses, microfinance and longer workdays.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists today published a roundtable article about how energy access is improving the lives of women in developing nations. Kalpana Sharma, who is a freelance columnist for and former deputy editor of The Hindu, gave the talk on empowering women through renewable electricity sources.

Solar power has begun to assist women in rural areas that are not on India's centralized power grid, Sharma said. Without power, many women are fearful of going out after sunset, drop out of school because they cannot study after dark, and spend hours every day gathering wood for fuel, Sharma noted.

Selco, an Indian business that creates sustainable energy solutions for rural areas, is helping to make a difference in the lives of women by providing solar power equipment on installment plans. It targets groups of women who own businesses, and selects a "leader" from the group to rent out solar charged batteries to the rest. The business owners are available to afford the payments via extended business hours, Sharma said, adding that the model could be replicated across much of India.

Women in Rajasthan are becoming local experts on solar installations, maintenance, and lighting through an NGO called Barefoot College. They form a center of excellence for their communities, Sharma said. "And by choosing to train women, Barefoot College has guaranteed that the expertise remains in the villages (men are more likely to go elsewhere to find work)," she said.

Empowering women can accomplish a lot for economies, including promoting a higher standard of living and lower population growth. Bangladesh is a great example of where this type of initiative has made a difference. Its population growth was on par with Pakistan -- until it created economic opportunities for women. Bangladesh is now a part of the "next eleven" list of high potential economies.

(image credit: Barefoot College)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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