Four Aeta grandmothers can fabricate, install, repair and maintain solar lighting equipment, but they need P2.6 million to illuminate the two communities where they come from using clean energy from the sun.
The new goal for the four women, who trained in India and became “solar engineers,” is to raise money to replicate solar technology in their communities and help about 100 households from each community have electricity, said Patricia Bunye, president of Diwata-Women in Resource Development Inc. (Diwata).
The solar grandmothers are Evelyn Clemente and Sharon Flores from Gala, Zambales and Cita Diaz and Magda Salvador from Bamban, Tarlac. They underwent a six-month training at Barefoot College in India.
Most residents in Bamban town are still using kerosene lamps for lighting, while not all families in Gala town have the means to pay for electricity.
On June 15, more than 130 people attended a fundraising dinner in Makati City to help “Tanging Tanglaw,” a project seeking to empower indigenous women, particularly grandmothers, by equipping them with skills to provide their communities with solar power.
The project is a collaboration among Diwata, Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association, and Land Rover Club of the Philippines.
“The solar grandmothers will assume the responsibility for installing and maintaining the solar panels and lamps for a minimum of five years.
“By replicating solar technology in their communities, they will help change the perception of what is a ‘professional’ for rural villages and challenge both age and gender barriers,” Bunye said.
The women, called the “Solar Lolas,” started their training in India last September then came back to the country in March armed with the capacity to help about 100 households in their communities with no electricity.
But the amount needed for this next step is quite big. So Bunye and her group thought of having the dinner with tickets costing P5,000 each and asking pledges from sponsors to raise the money for the worthy cause.
“The response during the dinner was very positive as more than 130 people came to help us raise money,” said the Diwata president.
She said her group was planning to conduct similar activities and visit various companies to present the project and how it would help indigenous communities in the country.
40-watt solar panel
With the targeted amount that Diwata would raise, Bunye said it would provide each household with a 40-watt solar panel, wall-mounted charge controller, waterproof battery box with battery, three LED very strong wall lights, one mobile phone charger, one large solar portable lantern, and workshop tools, supplies and spare parts.
Asked if other indigenous women would be trained in India, Bunye said Diwata wanted to send more after it completed the whole cycle of the project that would culminate with the electrification of the two selected communities.
Bunye said Barefoot College, which was founded by one of Time magazine’s most influential people in 2010, Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, offered the Solar Lolas a training course in “solar engineering, specifically fabricating, installing, repairing and maintaining solar lighting equipment.”
They also learned other livelihood activities like making mosquito nets and sanitary napkins.
“Bunker Roy accepts illiterate and untrained women all over the world with the belief that even the uneducated poor have the right to use technologies to improve their lives and skills,” Bunye said.
She added that the college was giving priority to women because they would return to their villages “to influence daily life and play a major role in their development rather than migrating to other places as men or younger community members might.”