Powering Women in Rwanda

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the stories of women in Rwanda. Rwanda currently has the world’s highest percentage of female leaders in parliament. Still, young Rwandan women face many challenges when it comes to energy access and education opportunity, and these barriers have increased with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 16-year-old student from GS St Francois d’Assise Mpushi, Monique Ishimwe explained, “Before getting a Little Sun lamp, at home, we had only one lamp torch and most of the time, its batteries were dead. It was so challenging for me to read or do my homework.”

In the Kamonyi District, half of primary schools have no electricity, and fewer than 5% of kids have electricity at home. You, our supporters, have helped us to address this issue. Together with our local partner SaferRwanda and the Rwandan Ministry of Education, our Solar Schools program distributed over 8,000 solar lamps to students last year.

We spoke with several young women who received lamps in Rwanda’s Kamonyi District about what inspires them, and how community, creativity and renewable energy help them to thrive and strive towards successful futures.

Powering Aspirations for Monique

16-year-old-student Monique Ishimwe.

Beginning in March 2020, Rwandan schools closed for eight months in response to the COVID-19 crisis and students were forced to resume their studies at home. Many young people have household responsibilities during the daylight hours, and to study and work after dark, families without electricity often burn kerosene for light. This is an added cost and poses real health concerns for those breathing in fumes.

We are excited for what increased educational opportunities and energy access means for students like Monique. After all, this young woman has impressive aspirations.

“After helping my mother at home, I sit in my favorite corner in our house and revise my studies every night. My dream is to become a political leader, maybe our district’s mayor. I want to help everyone in our region to have access to solar energy, I think it would help them to get a better life,” Monique shared.

Powering Creativity for Juliette

Juliette Uwonkunda (right) and her younger sister Rachel. Juliette’s siblings are the first to wear the clothes she creates.

In another part of the Kamonyi District, Juliette Uwonkunda (19) has found an added benefit to the lamps: They allow her to pursue her passion for creating clothing.

“Sometimes, after revising their studies, [my siblings] lend me the lamp. I am currently learning to tailor clothes of different styles. Little Sun helps me especially when I am sewing at home.”

Access to clean energy has enabled Juliette and her siblings not only to revise for school, but also to learn new crafts, gain independence, and have fun together.

Juliette said, “Now, I do not have to ask everything from my parents; I can afford some of my needs due to tailoring earnings. Nothing makes me happy like seeing people wearing clothes that I made for them.”

Powering Education with Therese

Students of Therese Nyirabemera, headmistress at GS St Francois d’Assise Mpushi in Rwanda.

Though great strides have been made in lessening the energy access gap, it is still a clear challenge in Rwanda and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. The headmistress of GS St Francois d’Assise Mpushi, Therese Nyirabemera sees solar power as a great advantage for the young women she teaches.

Therese said, “Before, most of our students would not do their homework and tell us that they failed to get the means to have light at their homes. After receiving Little Sun lamps, we immediately noticed that there was a change among our students. Our school performance got much better.”

We can see the impact that energy access has on young women and their families, and we must continue powering bright futures in Rwanda and beyond. Your support has enabled us to distribute another 3,400+ lamps to Rwanda this month, and we will ramp up our efforts with our biggest distribution ever this year — to over 70,000 schoolchildren in Ethiopia. We will of course share stories from these inspiring young people in the coming months.

You can help more young women build the thriving lives they deserve, and help us with our vision of universal access to clean energy, by donating now.

Photos courtesy of Denyse Uwera.