Girl Power

340 million children in Sub Saharan Africa live without access to electricity. This means they are unable to study after dark, are less likely to stay in school, graduate, and get jobs that can help pull their families out of poverty. And that’s especially true for girls, such as Marjani*. 

Marjani with her parents and sister Zala in their family home

Marjani is a 13-year old living in Abscia, Ethiopia. She comes from a family of five children, two boys and three girls. Her favorite subject is Biology and she’s especially interested in how she can protect her community from different diseases, such as Malaria. To do that, Marjani wants to be a doctor when she grows up and education is really important to her as it will help her pursue her goals. 

But Marjani’s journey in education has not been easy. Before receiving a Little Sun lamp, the only chance the student had to prepare for exams and do her homework was under a nearby tree as the family hut was too dark during the day and with no access to electricity, even darker after the sun went down. 

“Before I ranked number 5 out of 32 students, but since I have my Little Sun lamp, I have the best performance in my class. A few months ago, I was awarded a book and a pen in front of all my classmates and that was one of the best days in my life!” – Marjani 

Marjani’s sister, 9-year-old Zala, is the youngest child in the family. Although it’s often difficult for her parents to provide for her school needs, they know how important education is and she is thankful for the opportunity to go to school every week. From her mother, Zala knows what it means not to have the chance to finish your education. 

“I like my solar lamp because it gives me light to solve math equations. Everyone should learn basic maths because otherwise, they will struggle a lot when going to the market and can lose money like my mother did the other day.” – Zala 

When she grows up, Zala wants to be a Math teacher as this is her favorite subject in school. What she likes so much about it is that everyone else finds it difficult to understand but to her,  solving all kinds of math problems, from addition to subtraction, is the easiest part of the day. And although she is only 9 years old, she already knows that staying in school and graduating one day will make an enormous difference in her life. 

In a way, Zala is lucky. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 52 million girls are out of school, with millions more at risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And this is because of a simple fact: When parents don’t have the means to send all children to school, ​​girls are the first to be left out of the equation. Parents often decide it’s worth sending a son to the classroom because he seems to have better job prospects than an educated girl would have. This means that female students are often left at home doing chores and even worse, facing the perils of early marriage, early pregnancy, and abuse.

Apart from helping students with learning their lessons, there’s an additional element to why the Little Sun lamp is key to girls from rural villages in Africa: It makes them feel safer. 

Naomi is a 12-year old girl from Boyar village, Senegal, located around 100 kilometers southeast of Dakar. She wants to become a teacher when she grows up but she is also proud of how good she is at shot put. She even shared her secret with us – you just have to keep your elbow high at all times and then you’re always scoring among the first out of all the children, even the boys. 

Naomi enjoys going to classes and meeting her friends there but she is dreading the long and dangerous way to school. Every day, she has to wake up before sunrise, and most nights, she is not able to get home until long after dark. 

“My school is 2 km away from my home, so I’d leave early in the morning when it was still dark. It was scary, so I used to light up my way with a candle. Now I can do this with my solar light which I like very much because it’s pretty and the light is very bright which makes me feel safer.” – Naomi 

From day one at Little Sun, it’s been our priority to ensure that children, especially girls, have light to learn their lessons, explore their interests, and develop their full potential to become the leaders of tomorrow. Almost 10 years ago, we started bringing solar light to students in rural Africa and we’ve seen from experience that for children living without electricity, a small solar lamp can have a big impact – giving young minds the opportunity to thrive. 

If you’re someone who appreciates the power of books and education to change lives, please donate today! When you support Little Sun, you help thousands of female students from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Senegal by giving them the tools they need to create a brighter future — for themselves, for their communities, and for Africa.

*All children’s names have been changed in accordance with the Little Sun Child Protection Policy.