fbpx

Mayi Walas

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.

Eness Naliwa, 35 years old, part of the Chimwemwe Mayi Walas group is practicing sale with her field support agent Willis Katungwe. Photo: SolarAid/Chris Gagnon.

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.

The Chimwemwe group and the Tikondane Group Mayi Walas meet together with Alex Mpenda and Mphatso Msewa from SunnyMoney in Nyama. The two groups are based only 500 meters from each other. Photo: SolarAid/Chris Gagnon

"I am motivated by seeing the smile of a woman realising she no longer needs to worry about income only coming from what little farm produce she has to sell."
Mphatso Nsewa, Mayi Walas Project Supervisor