Over 100 years ago, women’s suffrage pushed for women’s right to vote. Today, through #PoweringJobs campaign we are now pushing for more local and gender inclusive energy workforces to bring energy access to villages. This is especially important in West Africa, where 100 million women and girls live in energy poverty. As the backbone of their families and communities, women entrepreneurs are driving positive change.

After several years of informal collaboration, ElleSolaire and SolarAid have officially partnered to deliver access to clean energy in Senegal’s rural communities through women-led entrepreneurs. In a country with six million people living without electricity, women will play an important role in bringing clean energy to families living where traditional distribution channels do not exist.

A six month pilot study, conducted by ElleSolaire- one of the first women-led clean energy distribution networks in Senegal- recruited local women from remote villages and provided them with training and support in sales, marketing and financial management. Extra income earned from selling solar lights was invested back in their communities, funding children’s education, food, clothes and health clinic visits.

By the end of the pilot, over 3,500 people had access to affordable electricity for the first time, 545 women were generating incremental income and dozens of women had become businesswomen in their own right. ElleSolaire and SolarAid’s hope to reach over 7,000 people in the coming year.

Through the Sustainable Development Goals, countries and development stakeholders have made a bold commitment to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. Though the number of people living without access to electricity fell below one billion for the first time this year, more support and investment is needed to ensure those living in the most remote and disadvantaged have access to sustainable renewable energy markets.

Together, we will work to address gender inequality and provide access to clean energy to those who need it most. No one should be left in the dark, and with the support and participation of local women, no one has to.