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Solar energy illuminates women's lives in rural Yemen

A group of women in black outfit watching a man working on a solar panel

E'tiraf and other female participants learning how to install solar energy systems. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

E'tiraf and other female participants learning how to install solar energy systems. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

E’tiraf Abdo Turki, 35 years old, is a mother of two children from Lahj, a governorate in southern Yemen. When the armed conflict erupted in the country in 2015, E’tiraf and her family fled from Lahj to Aden city. And when fighting settled in their hometown, the family returned to start over again in the devastated village.

“After we returned to our hometown, like many other returnees, we found it difficult to access basic services, especially after we lost our livelihoods,” says E’tiraf. “Accessing electricity is very difficult here with the frequent, long cut-offs of the public electricity. We had to rely on kerosene lamps, which made simple everyday tasks such as cooking and reading more difficult.”

A woman and two young boys standing in front of the house
E'tiraf standing with her children in front of their house. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Nearly half of the homes in E’tiraf’s village don’t have electricity at all or have unreliable grid power. Alternative sources of energy, such as solar systems, provide clean, renewable energy. Solar energy is cheaper and safer than kerosene-based energy that the majority of the villagers use in the absence of stable energy sources. The lack of electricity and other basic services forces many families to leave their hometowns in the countryside in search of better services and livelihood opportunities in cities.

“I’ve always believed the sun can give us unlimited energy to illuminate our lives,” says E’tiraf. “I also thought about starting a small business to sell solar systems in my village, but I couldn’t make it. I didn’t have enough capital and the needed skills to deal with solar systems.”

E’tiraf, along with 1,300 participants in the Musaymer and Tuban districts of Lahj governorate, was fortunate to participate in the Supporting Resilient Livelihoods and Food Security in Yemen (ERRY II) Joint Programme. Supported wiith funding from the European Union (EU) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), CARE works with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help people like E’tiraf establish their small businesses.

A woman in a small shop looking at a gadget
E'tiraf installing a new solar energy system in one of her client's store. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Through the project, E’tiraf received training in both business management and solar systems installation and maintenance. The training gave E’tiraf the required guidance and confidence to put her idea into practice. “The skills I learned have changed the way I see myself and the world,” she says. “The training has enabled me to realize the resources I already have and how to link those resources to market demands to build my business and earn a living,” says E’tiraf.

The project also provided a financial grant of 600 USD to help E’tiraf in establishing her business. After the training, E’tiraf partnered with three other participants and started to sell solar systems to villagers in installments.

“This is the beginning of a real change in society’s convictions about women’s abilities,” E’tiraf says proudly. “At the beginning of the project, my husband wasn’t convinced I should work in solar energy systems, but after a while, he changed his mind and started to help me.”

“The mix of skills we received from this program are useful beyond starting a business,” she says. “It even helps us navigate family and community issues and extend our outreach to rural communities with much-needed products and services,” E’tiraf concludes.

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