MPOWERD has partnered with New Course to implement a “Give Light” campaign for the company’s micro solar-powered lantern, Luci. Luci lights are available for purchase at discounted rates for donation to New Course. New Course ensures these lights are distributed to women living in ecologically vulnerable habitats. This distribution process allows each light to not only benefit women and children in terms of poverty alleviation and health concerns, but also reduces pressure on the environment.
Many rural women’s days are consumed with the work of providing food, water and energy for their families. Luci lights provide a much needed break from time consuming activities such as the gathering of wood and other materials to burn for energy, as well as financial savings for women who spend a large portion of their income on energy. Additionally, in areas where resources are scarce or degraded, many women resort to using less sustainable or less healthy energy resources such as dung; Luci provides these women with a sustainable, healthy alternative.
To date we have distributed over 200 lights in areas such as the remote Maringa Lopori Wamba region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Northern Rangelands of Kenya, Pader District in Northern Uganda, and Papua New Guinea. We anticipate distributing another 500 lights in the first quarter of 2014.
Distribution of this renewable technologies has the potential to advance rural women economically and represent a transformative opportunity with regards to poverty reduction. In many rural areas, women spend as much as 25% of their income on fuel. Reducing this cost allows women to spend that money on other priority issues such as food, health care, and obtaining clean water. Research shows that when women’s economic status is improved, the benefits derived by communities are outstanding:
- When women receive education and training child mortality rates decrease and economic growth increases.
- Women reinvest a larger percentage of their earnings into communities than do men.
- Increases in household income, particularly income controlled by mothers or grandmothers, correlate with an increases in children’s nutrition and survival.
- A mother’s social and economic status is considered one of the best indicators for her children’s future education and health status.
However, benefits derived by renewable technologies are not limited to economic empowerment. Direct and indirect health, education and environmental benefits are accrued when technologies are used by women in rural communities. Despite the potential of technology use by women to improve investments in poverty reduction, natural resource management, and health security; technologies are most often introduced to and adopted for use by men. Women in developing countries are frequently deprived of the basic benefits of technology, including technologies that provide efficient household energy for cooking, heating and lighting, as well as for home-based agriculture and economic generating activities.
There is tremendous opportunity to improve the condition of women and children in rural communities by helping them access improved energy sources. Importantly, not all technology interventions are designed the same. For technologies to be successfully adopted by women and to ensure the best return on investment they should be renewable, cost effective, and accessible. Importantly, women often have low literacy rates and limited access to information; technologies therefore must be broadly available to women within a community and not further drive economic inequality. Further, technologies should also benefit families and communities as a whole. When technologies return benefits to the community through women the potential to have the technologies co-opted by men is decreased. Finally, technologies should be employed that will increase women’s economic opportunities or improve their productivity, as opposed to employing technologies because of enthusiasm for the technology itself.