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 In Field Updates, News, Stories

In Africa, it’s rather uncommon to see women engineers climbing up onto a roof or using a cordless drill. Since the time we first launched our Women’s Solar Ambassador program in 2012, we have been changing norms.  Women are the natural choice to enter labor rooms, install our equipment, and teach health workers to use our technology.  We Care Solar is proud of our focus on gender inclusivity. We believe in women as changemakers – and promote female leadership at every level of our organization.

Youngor Flomo is one of our Solar Suitcase installers. Born in Liberia, her earliest dream was to become a nurse. Without support for training in nursing, she took a position at a renewable energy organization in Liberia called EnDev/GIZ. When she heard that We Care Solar was leading a Solar Suitcase training in Monrovia for UN Women, she asked if she could join. Youngor loved the training and when she got to participate in health facility installations, she was hooked. She immersed herself in Solar Suitcase installations, obtained technical training in electrical engineering, and before long, was leading her team on hundreds of installations.

“I love installing the Solar Suitcases because it helps us women to give birth safely and reduces maternal mortality. With the help of the Solar Suitcase, women will not die at night. Midwives can see clearly, and not make mistakes while they are doing deliveries at night. They can do their work safely.”

Youngor’s experience in conducting 250 Solar Suitcase installations in last-mile Liberian health centers has shown her that solar power is critical for safe deliveries and that women need to be leaders in this field. “Our survival depends on it!” she tells us.

But women solar installers may not be immediately embraced by rural communities. “When midwives see us females they think we are not supposed to climb on top of the clinic. They see us putting ladders, and say, ‘Wow! Are you guys doing the work? Are you not afraid?’ They try and discourage us, thinking that we’re not capable. But as we keep doing the installation, they get used to that.”

Youngor’s commitment to the female inclusion in the renewable energy sector led her to launch her own organization: WiRE (Women in Renewable Energy). The 15 women at WiRE recognize that women are deeply affected by energy choices in society. They increase awareness about renewable energy products, take part in policymaking and, yes, install Solar Suitcases. “We are women and we are the ones benefiting from this program. We are helping our fellow women to give birth.”

In Zimbabwe, another young woman is breaking stereotypes by installing Solar Suitcases. 26-year-old Memory Mahwenda had an interest in science ever since she can remember. Her favorite childhood book was entitled “The New Discovery Why,” and introduced Memory to scientific experiments, engineering, electricity, and magnetism. She was particularly drawn to “first-class levers, such as pliers, balance scales, scissors, and clawhammers.” Memory followed her passion, eventually studying Physics and Renewable Energy at the University of Zimbabwe. When she landed an internship at ZimEnergy, it was a dream come true. She was eager to learn to install Solar Suitcases and loves the application of solar energy to health care.

“I enjoy doing my job. I meet with midwives and tell them about We Care Solar to give them an idea of our mission. I love seeing women giving birth in well-lit labor wards without suffering from using candles.”

Being a Solar Suitcase installer is a breakthrough for Memory. “It’s a source of inspiration for me, but also for other women who now see the potential of doing technical jobs. I motivate them by showing that all of us women can make it. Upon installation of the lights, I meet expectant mothers who are so happy to see a woman bringing light to their health centers. They wish their own daughters could venture into technical jobs.”

We are so proud of our female trailblazers who are demonstrating that women can implement every aspect of our programs. From the onset, we dreamed of a day when women throughout Africa could help us lead our programs. This year, we plan to launch an African Women Ambassador program to empower more women to join our movement.

Enjoy the video below to learn more about Youngor Flomo and female solar installers in Liberia.