In recognition of 2012 as United Nations International Sustainable Energy for All Year, this four part special guest blog series from Solar Sister puts the spotlight on linkages between energy access and health matters that must be part of global conversations.
Neha Misra, Chief Collaboration Officer of Solar Sister (Courtesy Photo)
These posts are written by Neha Misra, the Chief Collaboration Officer of Solar Sister - an innovative social enterprise that is bringing a women run grassroots clean energy revolution to spread light, hope and opportunity in Africa and beyond. Trained as an Energy Economist, Neha is also a poet and says that Solar Sister is poetry in another form really. For how poetic is that – to sprinkle sunshine in people’s lives who, in turn, can pass the baton on to keep the magic alive and make our world a brighter place to live in!
Solar Sister’s Energy Access & Health Matters Series:
Connecting the dots between Global Energy Poverty & Health
There are many things we take for granted in life.
For example, if you are reading this on your bright desktop computer or a laptop or a smart phone, chances are that your day is not absorbed by darkness as soon as the sun sets down.
But it is the case for more than 1.6 billion people – a quarter of humanity which has not seen a single light bulb, for it lives in the heart of darkness as soon as the sun sets down. Can you picture 1.6 billion people living without any light? No nighttime stories read by mothers by bedside reading lights, no brightly lit family dinner tables around which everyone shares stories about their day, no holiday season with bright lights. Instead, there is the health risk due to use of toxic and dangerous kerosene lanterns and candles used for light.
Woman in Uganda selling roasted corn by the light of her kerosene lamp; (Photo Courtesy: Solar Sister, 2011)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that individuals breathing kerosene fumes and soot inhale the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. This can cause asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, heart disease and lung cancer. Every year there are 1.6 million deaths due to indoor air pollution – that is one life lost every 20 seconds. The health of the planet also suffers from green house gas (GHG) emissions and black soot from kerosene lanterns – emitting smoke equivalent to 30 million cars into the atmosphere every single year!
The goods news is that there is light, hope and opportunity in the form of a new kind of clean energy revolution led by Solar Sister, an innovative social enterprise which combines the breakthrough potential of portable solar technology with a woman-driven direct sales network to help displace the use of kerosene and candles.Solar Sister won United Nations Environmental Program’s 2011 SEED Award in recognition of its commitment to build local green economy in Africa.
Solar Sister provides women in Africa with solar ‘business in a bag’: a start-up kit with an inventory of portable solar products, training and marketing support. This includes Solar Sister branded t-shirts, bags and record keeping notebooks. Solar Sister Entrepreneurs use their real world social networks – friends, neighbors, and family, local markets to sell the affordable and high quality solar products to their communities. Besides light, they sell solar cell phone and radio chargers so families and businesses can stay connected. Solar Sister Entrepreneurs earn a commission on each sale they make and their communities have the life transforming clean energy technology at their doorsteps. Since 2010, Solar Sister has trained 132 rural African women as solar change makers bringing light to over 13,000 people.
One Solar Sister at a time - Spreading light, hope and opportunity in Africa. See Solar Sister’s introductory video on YouTube. (Photo and Video Credits: Solar Sister, 2011)
This access to solar power improves the health and well being of communities both by displacing kerosene use and by improving their connectivity. For example, diabetic patient Mama Norah of Budaali Village in Uganda used to walk for more than two kilometers each way to have her phone charged. On days that she could not charge her phone, she would fear her fate in case of an emergency.
Solar Sister Entrepreneurs sell life transforming portable solar products using their social networks (Photo Credits: Solar Sister, 2011)
Then one day, Mama Norah bought a solar lamp with a mobile phone charger from a Solar Sister Entrepreneur. She now says, “I no longer have to pay for phone charging, I just put the solar panel on my roof and connect my phone to the lamp and it is charged, it is a miracle that has put my heart to rest.” Solar Sister has not only brought light to Mama Norah, but also connectivity that may save her life one day. Join Solar Sister in spreading light, hope and opportunity.
These posts are written by Neha Misra, the Chief Collaboration Officer of Solar Sister. You can follow her on Twitter at @LightSolar.
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