Across the developing world, the labor-intensive and unpaid work of farming and collecting water, and the household chores of cooking and refilling kerosene fuel lamps fall disproportionately on women. In Uganda, a 2006 report [PDF] by the World Bank found that women comprise 80 percent of all unpaid workers, and are commonly marginalized in the formal employment sector because of their gender. However, research suggests that Ugandan women are highly entrepreneurial and credit-worthy. The primary barriers to women contributing to greater economic growth in Uganda are their lack of information about their own legal rights, and the access to mechanisms to enforce them.
Helping women overcome these barriers is the mission of Solar Sister, a social enterprise that provides training, working capital and marketing support to help women entrepreneurs in Uganda launch businesses offering portable solar lights, solar-powered mobile phone and radio charging solutions and clean cook stoves.
Since 2009, Solar Sister has helped launch 132 “micro-enterprises” in three countries, and provided over 17,000 people with solar-powered lighting solutions. By supporting women entrepreneurs, Solar Sister enables women to earn income for their households and, ultimately, help their families overcome poverty.
Solar Sister is now partnering with the Center for Applied Innovation, a Chicago-based nonprofit, to provide education and training for 100 girls in Uganda, as part of the Invent for Humanity campaign. Working closely with a Solar Sister mentor, the girls will learn about solar technology, environmental and health benefits of clean energy technologies, and have the opportunity to earn income for school improvement projects.