#WESHINE is the story of women entrepreneurs in Nigeria and Tanzania who spread light and clean energy where it's most needed. Meet some incredible women and learn about the unexpected ways they are transforming lives.
The Women + Energy: WE Shine campaign was made possible by ENERGIA, International Network on Gender and Energy. Film series produced by Show the Good.
Click an image below to find out how different women entrepreneurs are spreading light and hope in Nigeria!
CLEAN, AFFORDABLE ENERGY
JUST ONE LIGHT MEANS ...
Click an image below to watch a short video about women entrepreneurs spreading light and hope in Tanzania!
In Nigeria, energy poverty is not only a rural issue. In the peri-urban areas all over the country, communities are stuck without power despite being able to see powerlines cross overhead. Rachel lives in just such a neighborhood. She is a tailor and now she sells solar products too.
Rachels has run a successful tailoring business for 20 years, in a shop not far from where she lives on the outskirts of Ibadan city. “People are surprised I know about this [solar technology]. I’m well known for my tailor business but now I’m involved in selling solar lamps.”
Rachel combines her businesses effectively. She uses solar light to work on tailoring orders at her shop, which is not connected to the grid, and uses her shop to promote and showcase a variety of solar products to customers coming to get a new outfit made.
Rachel mentors a dozen young women as apprentice tailors, teaching them the practical skills she has learned over the decades. She also teaches them about solar light. “Some of my tailoring apprentices help get people interested in solar products!”
Rachel goes out to nearby neighborhoods and associations to drum up interest in solar products. Here, she speaks to a local chapter of Nigeria’s Union of Tailors, and demonstrates various products from portable lights to larger home systems.
The neighborhood where Rachel lives and works is in the outskirts of Ibadan city, the third most populous city in Nigeria. From Rachel’s shop you can see the electrical wires crisscrossing the sky but many residences and businesses here do not have access to the grid.
Omotola Ajao, Solar Sister Business Development Associate, supports several entrepreneurs including Rachel. She brings new products, helps troubleshoot issues and facilitates business trainings, traveling regularly across Oyo State to ensure entrepreneurs like Rachel have the tools they need to expand their businesses.
One of Rachel’s most popular products is the SunKing Pro that provides several hours of light and also charges mobile phones. Here she hooks the light to a nail in the roof to charge.
Rachel with her three daughters pose in front of the tailor shop. “I believe women can relate better with each other and can get access to meetings and markets. Women are often more determined and more focused and this business requires planning. As a woman entrepreneur, the first question I get is, Are you using it? And so I find it easier to convince my customers because I use the products and I am a woman.”
Felicia Abiola-Ige is a science teacher and is incredibly enthusiastic about both solar energy and women empowerment. Mrs Abiola-Ige is keen to involve the next generation – she has already taught her children about solar energy and entrepreneurship.
Mrs. Abiola-Ige teaches science at a secondary school in Oyo town and raises three of her own children as well as three other children who depend on her. She is a formidable and respected figure, keen to develop her community with clean energy products. Here customers gather at a Solar Sister stall she has set up at a Baptist church conference.
Mrs Abiola-Ige also believes it is essential for women to get involved in solar business. "We are the ones who need the energy! The children come to us asking for light. The more women we get into this business the better."
Mrs Abiola-Ige and her daughter Opeyemi go to schools, churches, cooperatives, hospitals and more to advertise solar products and drum up business.
In a male-dominated sector, there are relatively few women benefitting from solar business opportunities. "I know only one other woman who does this, and she is a Solar Sister entrepreneur."
Mrs Abiola-Ige is always thinking of ways to increase business: “My first plan is to have a permanent stand to display products and draw in more customers. Marketing materials are very important. I also plan to do some bonus prices for short periods to attract interest.”
Mrs Abiola-Ige’s husband is an opthalmologist who strongly supports his wife in her clean energy business. Here he displays her solar products in the waiting room at his clinic.
Light is about hope and opportunity. Light is also about security. In remote agricultural communities like Ikpamodo in Enugu State, light can make all the difference. Solar Sister entrepreneur Eucharia believes solar lights saved her life.
People in Enugu State are mostly agrarian, planting rice, cassava, yams and also cash crops such as oil palm and cashews. The Oji River Power Station in Enugu State used to supply electricity to all of Eastern Nigeria but has not since been revived. Many rural communities here have no access to power at all.
Eucharia travels by moped as public transport is hard to come by here. Here she gives her friend a ride home after a Solar Sister sisterhood meeting.
Eucharia became a Solar Sister entrepreneur in March 2017. “My husband likes that I am doing Solar Sister and encouraged me to the buy solar lights for our own home.”
“The solar light actually helped to save my life. Sometimes in our area, gangs come to kidnap people at night, but if there is light it deters them.” One month before this photo was taken, Eucharia was at home with her granddaughter (pictured) when a gang banged on her door. “Because they do not want to be identified, they need darkness.” The solar lights allowed Eucharia enough time to raise the alarm. Now, she says, she leaves her solar lamps outside every night.
Eucharia bought a clean cookstove herself and also sells them to women in her community. “Before I used firewood on three-stones to cook with. Now I use a clean cookstove and I use much less wood. There’s less smoke too.”
Eucharia is a farmer and also in true entrepreneurial spirit, she raises chicks for sale.
Eucharia has five children, two who have already finished high-school, including Chukwuebuka (pictured to her right). “I’m going to continue Solar Sister because it’s been a big help with my family. I have paid school fees and together with my husband’s money, we will put a new roof on our house.”
Nkiru Nnam is a Business Development Associate with Solar Sister who works with women entrepreneurs, including Eucharia, across rural communities in Enugu and Anambra states.
Nanbet is a formidable young woman who is raising five children on her own. She is a farmer and now a clean energy entrepreneur. For Nanbet, her clean energy business means she can grow more and feed her children. She has used profits to pay for fertilizers and laborers for her farm and also to send her grandchildren to school.
Nanbet lives in Ampang West, a small community in the rolling green of the Kerang highlands in Plateau State famous for the spring water from volcanic soil.
Four of Nanbet’s children live with her in a small house in Ampang West. She became a Solar Sister entrepreneur in late 2016. She uses a small solar lamp at home and no longer buys kerosene.
Nanbet orders solar lights and clean cookstoves from Hanatu Onogu, a Solar Sister Business Development Associate, who supports entrepreneurs in rural communities across Plateau State.
This small solar light was put out to charge by one of Nanbet’s children. It costs just less than $10 dollars and at full charge lasts for 4 hours.
Even Nanbet’s youngest child is excited about solar!
An estimated 4 million deaths are linked to household air pollution like smoke from cooking fires. Here Nanbet’s older daughter cooks over an open wood fire. Before they got a clean cookstove, she complained of red stinging eyes and breathing problems
Nanbet is proud of how selling clean energy products has made an impact on her customers' lives: "It changes people's lives - it reduces poverty. Many people tell me that when they buy the product it reduces costs for them."
Through Solar Sister, Nanbet and Mercy became fast friends: “Solar Sister helps me a lot in different corners and angles of my life. It is not just the income. I made friends with Mercy through Solar Sister. We advise each other on how to sell products and on the challenges.”
“With the profits from selling solar lamps I paid for two grandchildren to go to school. I also pay for fertilizers and laborers for my field, which helps me to grow more. I grow potatoes and maize and beans. In the future, I want to buy a large plot of land – that’s what I’m saving up for now.”
A small community of farmers and fishermen living on banks of the Niger river, totally cut off from the electrical grid. This is what we call the “last mile” – where most energy providers do not reach. Where Solar Sister heads for.
To reach Odeh village, you drive two hours north of Nigeria’s industrial capital, Onitshe, a center of commerce for West Africa and also the city with the world’s worst air pollution. Then you take a 15-minute boat ride across the Niger river.
Odeh is a riverine community of a few thousand people, farmers and fishermen. It’s a good example of the so-called “last mile,” off-grid communities where woodfire stoves, kerosene lamps, AA batteries and – for those who can afford it – small petrol-powered generators are your only energy options.
Chinenye Anekwe, Solar Sister’s Business Development Manager, speaks to entrepreneurs and village leaders at Odeh village about new solar products.
Margaret is a farmer who joined Solar Sister recently in 2017. “I focus on selling the phone charging solar lamps. Here we must go to the market across the river to charge our phones. You spend to charge your phone plus the cost of crossing the river. I’m excited about the testimonies my customers bring to me. They are so happy to charge their phones at home for free.”
Beatrice is a farmer and became a Solar Sister entrepreneur in August 2015. She sells solar lights to farmers who are able to work longer in the fields without rushing home when the sun goes down. "Since becoming a Solar Sister entrepreneur, I’ve seen a lot of advantages – especially saving a lot of money that I usually spend on kerosene."
Victoria became a Solar Sister entrepreneur in 2016. "One person laughed at me when I tried to sell him a solar lamp. He went to buy a cheaper one at the market. It broke in a month and he came to back and bought from me."
Victoria raises five children and five grandchildren single-handed. She teaches at the local primary school and became a Solar Sister entrepreneur in 2016. “I bought kerosene in 2015 and it sits in corner of my house unused up to today. I use a solar lamp now. Personally I have saved a lot of money. Also the proceeds I make I use to pay for school fees.”
One of Beatrice’s customers uses a solar light to prepare food. “I go house to house at night, so people really see the impact that a light has in the darkness. Especially compared to kerosene lamps, you see the brightness of the solar lamps.”
Four Solar Sister entrepreneurs pose with Chinenye at Odeh village.