Lighting the Way to Women’s Economic Empowerment
The women of East and Northeast India no longer need to fear the dark. ONergy, an award-winning social enterprise, has developed a number of innovative energy solutions that not only address the dearth of electricity in the region – improving safety in their communities – but also light a path toward economic empowerment for women.
ONergy’s innovative solar power solutions are providing energy to meet India’s development and social challenges. To promote solar as a clean and reliable source of energy, the company is training women entrepreneurs in its products’ technology, usability and special features. By partnering with local grassroots organizations – microfinance institutions, NGOs and women’s self-help groups – the company is imparting product know-how while also enabling these women to serve as company distributors – providing both income and empowerment.
“Lack of energy is an important bottleneck to development. And women are the central force in the development of their families and the shaping of the next generation,” says Piyush Jaju, CEO of ONergy. “ONergy’s products provide environmental benefits by reducing the use of diesel generators, kerosene and other harmful energy sources – and empower women to help shape a brighter tomorrow.”
Sandhya is a living example of how ONergy’s entrepreneurship programmes are creating change among India’s poor people. Prior to working with ONergy, Sandhya, 24, and her husband could barely make ends meet financially. With the organisation’s support, she acquired a small loan from a local microfinance institution and began conducting demonstrations on the advantages of solar power, the uses of ONergy’s products and the ease of buying them through microfinance institutions. She is now able to light up her home, which allows her child to study more easily. She occasionally accompanies her husband to the fields, which utilize an ONergy solar-powered irrigation pump. By being the first to electrify her house, and by taking the initiative to spread awareness of the benefits and opportunities of solar power, Sandhya has become an inspiration for many women in her village.
But ONergy’s solar products are not just helping the women who market them. Tumpa, an embroiderer, was also struggling to make ends meet. Her village in Sunderbans – the largest Mangrove forest area in India – is also home to many wild animals, which made night time visits particularly dangerous. And without light in her home, she had to stop working at sunset. Tumpa and her husband invested in a solar light that not only illuminates their home, but is also light and powerful enough to carry outside, making it easy for her to use in her travels. Since then, Tumpa has doubled her output, her children can study in the night and she travels from one place to another without fear of being attacked by animals.
To date, ONergy has provided training to more than 2,000 women and aims to reach 50,000 in East & North East within the next three years. The company has developed products for solar irrigation and micro cold storage (for agriculture), low-cost solar computer systems (for education) and solar microgrids (for livelihoods). It has built an ecosystem that connects technology, finance and grassroots organizations to manage the needs, aspirations and resources for undeserved customers at the base of the economic pyramid. To date, ONergy has impacted 350,000 lives, and working with its microfinance and NGO partners, the company plans to brighten the lives of 1 million women in the next two years.
In 2015, ONergy joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA), a global initiative supported by the United Nations Development Programme and other international organizations that encourages companies to fight poverty through innovative business models, with a pledge to scale up its successful product distribution network in order to bring reliable solar-powered products to India’s poorest and underserved regions. The expansion is expected to provide solar energy to 1 million people by 2017 and reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 100,000 tons. Learn more here about the initiative.