At Unite to Light we believe that everyone deserves an equal chance. We distribute solar lights to give people that chance and while our lights don’t change lives, (only the people using them can do that for themselves), they do enable opportunities. Opportunities in education, health, safety and community.
These opportunities are especially important for the women we work with. Women and girls bear the brunt of the impacts of energy poverty. They are the ones who collect firewood, fetch water, care for siblings, do the cooking over open flame and birth babies. 60 Decibels recently found that 64% of female solar lantern customers say that their life has improved very much compared to 56% of men (emphasis added).
For International Women’s Day we are highlighting how Unite to Light and our partners are enabling an equitable world, one solar light at a time.
Celebrating Women’s Achievement
If you’ve been following us for a while you’ll be familiar with Nomusa Zikhali but her story is worth repeating. Mrs. Zikhali lives in the KwaZulu-Natal region in South Africa and had always wanted to be a teacher. After her children had grown she went back to school to get her teaching credentials. The first teaching position she was offered was for a school that did not have any buildings.
Classes were held under four trees; one for each of the three grades she taught and one for her office. Fast forward almost 20 years and Nkomo Primary School supports over 900 students and is a model for education in South Africa. Mrs. Zikhali has broken out from the traditional role of a woman within the patriarchal Zulu culture and developed into a motivating and empowered leader for the entire community. For the full story, watch the documentary “Under Four Trees” produced by Unite to Light Board Member Suzanne Cross.
Raising Awareness Against Bias
Every day 830 women die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications; that is equivalent to a passenger jet crashing--every day. Most of these women could have been saved with access to basic care from a midwife. There is bias that prevents nations and communities from prioritizing women’s health care.
Organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are working to end these needless deaths by training midwives and community health workers in humanitarian and conflict zones. We are partnering with the UNFPA and Hope Health Action Network to provide midwives with the tools they need to do their jobs. This includes access to solar light and power so they can charge their cell phones and blood pressure and heart rate monitors in the field. Even a midwife who practices in a clinic will make house calls and never knows what type of light they will have available in the home of a patient. Bringing safe, reliable and inexpensive light can mean the difference between life and death for their patients.
Take Action for Equality
At Unite to Light we try to lead by example. Did you know that our CEO is female? Our Board of Directors is also 50% female. (Check out their bios here. ) Our entire team realizes that women are more adversely impacted by energy poverty and so we view our work through a gendered lense. We ask if our efforts are helping the most at-risk, not just to gain access to light, but also to build opportunities for education and advancement in their communities.
We are proud to hear about the girl who is the first female in her family to graduate from high school and attend college, or the midwife who has gained standing in a community due to her health care skills and knowledge. Each of these women are gaining equal standing through their own hard work and persistence. We are honored when our solar lights can give them the little boost they need to succeed.
On International Women’s Day, we honor each woman and stand by the efforts for equality. Want to learn more? Visit the International Women’s Day website or come see us at the HER Festival on March 8th in Goleta, CA.