Maasai women bring light to villages

When night falls in the rural village of Kajiado in Kenya, the Maasai people, an ethnic group of semi-nomadic shepherds who live in this region, are forced to stop all activities and prepare for the darkness of the evening and night. To prevent their livestock becoming prey to hyenas and big cats, the shepherds light fires, which consume the shrubs, pollute the surrounding area and put the villages in risk of fires.

Gaining access to electricity can significantly change the life for the Maasai people. It gives them an alternative to lighting a fire to protect their livestock every evening, it gives them the ability to turn on a light and allowing their children to study after dark, it allows them to recharge electronic devices and to store energy for unexpected events during the night.

The initiative of Green Energy Africa, a local social cooperative, is helping entire villages to diffuse light and small electrical equipment powered by solar panels. The project, called Women and Entrepreneurship in Renewable Energy Project (WEREP) aims to convert all the villages of the county of Kajiado to use of solar energy.

To do so, more than 200 Maasai women are travelling from village to village on their donkeys, selling and installing Green Energy Africa solar panels, rechargeable batteries and portable kits for lighting. This project is proving to be a true revolution for both the inhabitants of these small towns as they have never before had access to electricity and for the Maasai women as they have seized their own small business activity.

"For us, the impact of solar technology is unprecedented," says Jackline Naiputa, who heads the Osopuko-Edonyinap, one of five women's groups that provide energy access in the area. "My son used to spend his nights watching over the goats because they were killed by wild animals, but now the electric light frightens the hyenas and there is no need to worry about losing our animals at night."

"The project started in 2014 and has already lit up more than 2000 homes in this area" says the founder of Green Energy Solar, "Here, our traditions do not allow women to own property, but now they have the chance to own solar technology, and it is a great step forward!"