How solar microgrids are empowering women in Yemen
In Yemen, opportunities for women to earn a living independently are few. A group of women have found permanent employment by building a solar microgrid that provides power to their rural community.
The 10 women, living in the Abs district in the north of the country near the border with Saudi Arabia, installed the 26.8 kW capacity microgrid in January 2019. Now, it is providing women with a sustainable income and allows them to develop professional skills.
“At first, they made fun of us, we want to do men’s work. But now, the community respects us because we are business owners, ”said Iman Ghaleb, one of the owners of the microgrid. “This project has created trust and has broken the red line in dealing with men. Now we are contributing to the monthly family budget to cover food and other necessities of life. “
Yemen ranks as the worst country in the world for women at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum Global gender gap index.
Abs is one of three rural communities where women and youth have been trained to install and manage solar microgrids to bring electricity to the area. Two similar microgrids have been installed in Bani Qais district and Lahj district. Microgrids are believed to be the first privately managed energy sources in the country.
The project, which is led by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), addresses two major challenges in Yemen: access to affordable energy and provision of income for women and youth. Their successes in these areas earned the project a prestigious Ashden Award for sustainable development earlier this year.
This project has built trust and broken the red line in dealing with men.
More than half of Yemen’s rural population does not have access to energy. Before grids, the Abs community relied on diesel generators. According to Arvind Kumar, Yemen project manager at UNDP, 10,000 people now have access to clean energy and electricity bills have been reduced by 65%. The microgrid model is “the way forward” for energy in rural Yemen, he added.
The next step of the program is to secure financing from the private sector to build more microgrids. The goal is to build 100 in total in remote areas of the country, to keep schools and hospitals open during the conflict.
Lead Image: Ashden