Solar Sister, a Cisco nonprofit partner, invests in women’s clean energy businesses to empower female entrepreneurs and build community resilience, lifting people out of the cycle of poverty. Solar Sister takes an innovative approach to achieve their mission of sustainable, scalable impact at the nexus of women's empowerment, energy poverty and climate change. The organization trains and supports female entrepreneurs like Majama in building sustainable businesses that bring clean energy directly to homes in their communities.

After recruiting and training new entrepreneurs across “last mile” communities in sub-Saharan Africa, Solar Sister supplies them with a range of clean energy technologies such as solar-powered lanterns, solar lanterns that can charge mobile phones, and clean cookstoves.

Selling these products directly to people, predominantly women, who lack electricity in their communities allows the entrepreneurs to earn an income. The relationship is mutually beneficial; the women in the program gain financial empowerment while their customers benefit from the financial, education, and health benefits of clean energy.

Majama’s income, for example, has allowed her to send her kids to school and support her family, build her house, and buy two acres of farmland where she raises animals and grows crops.

“We are so grateful for Solar Sister, because this opportunity has given us an economic recovery,” says Majama, who is one of Solar Sister’s top-selling entrepreneurs, in a video about her work.

More than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity and over 700 million depend on harmful fuels such as firewood and charcoal for cooking, which can cause health issues, including respiratory and vision problems. Lack of access to electricity has a multitude of direct and indirect negative consequences on health, educational opportunities, and income generation.

Women are disproportionately affected by energy poverty, as they often take on the burden of unpaid care. Increased light after dark allows more time to complete daily tasks, increasing productivity after the sun sets, and clean cookstoves save time spent collecting wood, money spent on solid fuels, and smoke output, significantly improving health outcomes.

Independent research shows that Solar Sister’s model of female entrepreneurship not only results in income-generating opportunities for women, but also benefits health, education, and a woman’s status and control over resources.

Read the full article about energy poverty by Liv Starr at Global Citizen.