As the quest for solar energy takes center stage to beat rising fuel bills, many women in the East African country of Tanzania are receiving training as solar engineers.
Under the initiative launched in 2014, illiterate women in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar are taught engineering skills and to assemble solar lamp kits. Officials told Anadolu Agency that these women are posted at solar power stations for five months to get practical training, before they return to their villages.
Not only providing cheap electricity to remote areas and reducing emissions, solar energy has also emerged as an employment absorbing sector for poor women in Zanzibar.
“Many women in Zanzibar are socially marginalized due to the patriarchal system. We are changing this by engaging women as solar engineers,” said Mzuri Issa, right activist and director of Tamwa, a nonprofit organization advocating women's issues.
Fatma Haji, 51, who was trained as a solar engineer four years ago said the training has transformed her life and ensured a stable income.
“It has guaranteed me an income every month. I am now able to support my family with this income, and it feels good to work for my community to ensure that many people get solar power,” she said.
Husna Husein Makame, a widow and mother of three children, also has reason to smile now that she is a skilled worker setting right the solar panels and batteries.
“I am getting used to working as a solar engineer. Initially, people raised eyebrows when they saw me fumbling with wires and climbing on rooftops. The perception people have is that engineering is men’s job but they are slowly changing and are accepting our roles” she said.
The electricity bulbs powered by solar energy have transformed the lives of students like Natasha Mahmood, 14, and her brother. They used to earlier work under the paraffin lamp to complete homework assigned by their school teachers.
“Solar power lights are very bright. They persuade me to work even more at night. There is no longer a rush to get it finished,” said Mahmood, a primary school student.
According to locals, voluntary organization Barefoot College has been working in their area to impart skills to women to allow them to build, install, maintain and repair solar panels.
Pendo Yaredi Daudi, director of Barefoot College in Zanzibar, said they select two women from each village and give them practical training for five months. They return to villages and then work as solar engineers.
Although Zanzibar is one of the best tourist destinations, the majority of its inhabitants live in poverty and are often without access to electricity.
By Kizito Makoye Unguja, Tanzania