SL Barefoot Women Solar Engineers Association appeals for government support

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The Sierra Leone Barefoot Women Solar Engineers Association is the first semi-literate solar energy institution that was established in Africa with the aim of enhancing and promoting rural women as solar engineers.

The institution is presently undergoing infrastructural, financial and technical challenges but ten of the trained women Solar  engineers from India are yet to operate in their districts due to the lack of bilateral government support from Sierra Leone and India.

Barefoot women solar engineers has been helping shine a light and equipping rural women with the means to connect their communities to solar energy since 2010.

The Secretary General and Technical Lead, Sierra Leone Barefoot Women Solar Engineers Association Edward Musa Nakay said in 2012 the Barefoot women Solar engineers training center was officially established and constructed by NaCSA  with a budget of 3.5 billion Leones.

He said one the major challenges is the poor construction of the livelihood and the four solar battery buildings which is now limiting their operations. He said due to such they have abandoned five buildings to consolidate the solar equipment which was affected by leakage, thunder and lightning.

He said the solar batteries they are operating with have lasted for 13 years and they are only use during working hours. The institution he said is government assisted and for the past years they have not been receiving sustainable financial and technical support to empower the training of rural women.

He noted that they cannot do effective training, life repairs and maintenance and cannot give efficient and sustainable power to the facility. The center depends on the battery bank which is their source of power to carry out their livelihood and energy.

He said for the past three years they have not received any stipend support from the government on their institutional management administration and capacity. Ten women that were trained in India in 2018 are still waiting for government intervention by locating them with rural electronics workshops but resources are not available. These women are expected to facilitate training and conduct installation of solar light to various communities.

He cited the responsibility of the government to provide financial and technical support on training and the construction and equipping of rural electronics workshop and make sure that the women are integrated into the energy sector.

He said solar rural electrification is a community participatory driven project were the villages can form a solar management committee an established an account for maintenance.

The Founder and Manager, Chief Solar Engineer Haja Nancy Kanu said the institution is presently undergoing infrastructural, financial and technical challenges.

After the training of 100 women on solar energy, thirty of them received support but since 2019 she said they have stopped training for the government and they have not been given any activities.

She called on the government to invest on the barefoot women to improve their productive output on rural solar energy and assured the government of quality capacity building and installation.

With Clean solar energy we can reduce some of the harmful practices causing climate change because it is a clean energy. We now have 22 women trained as solar engineers, we are training semi-literate, women from Liberia and internship students with practical teaching on solar techniques .I want to remind the Indian government, UNIDO and the government of Sierra Leone on their agreed commitment.

Salamatu Nancy Koroma from Kambia and a WASSCE student from Moyamba Halima P. Bangura appealed to the government of Sierra Leone to look at the important role these women have played and continue in demonstrating solar energy capacity building installation and maintenance.

“When we returned from India we settled in our village hoping to receive support and put in to practice what they have learned which did not happen due to lack of support. I came back to barefoot women training center to stay so that I won’t forget what I have learned in India. Barefoot women solar training are experts in solar training they can do it with the right techniques”.

Another WASSCE pupil added that she is now in level three learning installation, “I am now widely experienced on solar installation and maintenance. I want to go and engage myself in Moyamba district but the training center lacks financial resources.

I am calling on partners to invest on the barefoot women solar engineers training center and maintain their standard”.

She ended that Sierra Leone’s first cohort of solar engineers came from humble beginnings, but in 2010 they travelled 6,000 miles to train at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, in western India. After six months of training, they returned to their country to establish the Barefoot Women Solar Engineers Association of Sierra Leone.

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