Across sub-Saharan Africa, energy poverty disproportionately affects women and girls.
Simultaneously, women entrepreneurs face far more barriers to running sustainable businesses in rural communities.
However, it has been shown that women are key change-makers in providing energy access to rural communities and we recognise that having women at the forefront of our work is essential to achieving our mission.
‘Mayi Walas’ means ‘Shining Mothers’ in Chichewa, Malawi’s national language. In 2021, SolarAid launched the Mayi Walas programme, to recruit, train and support women entrepreneurs to run solar light businesses across rural Malawi.
This programme combines access to training, financing solutions and long-term business support to enable women entrepreneurs to break through the barriers they face in launching, growing and scaling successful businesses.
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 and 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.
With a network of ‘Shining Mothers’ across Malawi lighting up their communities we are closer to achieving our mission. With women at the forefront of rural energy access programmes we can light up every home, school and clinic in Africa by 2030.