Supporting women to gain new, useful skills can not only help them to boost their income and contribute to development. It can also give them the confidence and local respect needed to play a more active role in community decision making. VSO's Vishva Sodhi explains the benefits of training rural women as solar engineers in Tanzania.
But the real beauty of training rural women as solar engineers lies in the transformation they undergo as individuals and the impact this has on their community as they take on unprecedented leadership roles in their traditional villages.
Arafa remembers dropping out of school, and working the land after marrying an authoritarian husband who beat her, and spent any money she earned on himself. It was painful for her to recollect the days when she didn’t have enough food to eat and clothes to wear.
Today she has remarried and feels empowered to play a more active role in the community because of the rare and sought-after skills she has learned. Arafa sits on a village energy committee that administers solar panel fittings. She plans to equip women in nearby villages with the skills to fit solar panels once a training centre is built, and is already a role model to many girls in her village.
Whether it’s Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Middle East, it is women who suffer most from poverty yet have least influence over what is done about it. VSO is supporting women’s participation and influence in public and political life, whether it’s at the level of representation in national parliaments or, as in these Tanzanian villages, at grassroots level.
As the solar engineers demonstrate, empowering women to take up new economic and political opportunities can transform their lives and have a positive impact on a whole community.