The ‘Shining Mothers,’ or Mayi Walas in Chichewa, Malawi’s national language, recruits, trains and supports women entrepreneurs to run solar light businesses across rural Malawi.
Why Mayi Walas – women entrepreneurs are best placed to reach remote areas
In rural Malawi, just 5.6% of the population has access to electricity, leaving millions to rely on dangerous, expensive and polluting alternatives like candles and kerosene. The national grid will take decades to reach the poorest and most remote rural communities, while traditional market models struggle to become profitable in rural sub-Saharan Africa.
As the primary users of household energy and trusted members of vast social networks, there is growing evidence that women are best placed to bring renewable energy to the most remote areas. Yet, the potential of women as agents of change in bringing clean, safe energy to their communities is not being fulfilled as they face many barriers to running businesses.
The Mayi Walas programme aims to test the impact of supporting women solar entrepreneurs in reaching last-mile communities through access to group-based training, finance and ongoing business support.
How it works – create sustainability and scale
To recruit Mayi Walas, we work closely with Village Savings and Loans groups (VSLs), which operate as small, informal credit unions – where community members deposit savings and take out small loans.
Once recruited, SolarAid, through our social enterprise SunnyMoney, trains the Mayi Walas in financial management, marketing, the benefits of solar products and conducts ‘market-activation’ activities within the community to boost the Mayi Walas’ businesses by building trust and demand for solar products.
To enable the Mayi Walas to scale their solar businesses, we provide solar lights on interest-free loans funded through our partnership with Lendwithcare.
After 12 months of selling solar lights, Mayi Walas are then invited to become members of FEBCO, the micro-finance institution established by SolarAid, where they will have access to larger loans and long-term business support.