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May 14, 2015

Solar empowerment


May 14, 2015


It’s not easy being a woman in a place where women often bear the brunt of what they are not culpable for. Electricity loadshedding is one such phenomenon that affects women in numerous unbearable ways.
And these women are not those who give billions from public pockets to rental power plants for producing nothing. They are also not those who act as patrons of mega power theft practices nor does the corruption of such women cause billions in line losses. Yet it is these women, particularly those belonging to the lower and middle income strata, who suffer loadshedding the most.
For women tending to the unending daily chores, including cooking, at home in the summer heat turns hellish under loadshedding. Children are restless and their education suffers while men get angrier than usual upon entering homes that are sunk deep into suffocating darkness. Women working outside their homes face even greater degrees of challenges in coping with life without electricity upon returning home.
Pakistani women – even those in unfavourable economic conditions – somehow manage some level of savings. Their savings can empower them with solar energy for some level of relief from loadshedding. The federal government and provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should launch a women’s solar empowerment programme under which women should be assisted with purchasing and initiating solar-powered fans and lights for their homes through an easy instalment programme.
The programme should be run by issuing a basic solar card for women in denominations of Rs10,000. Ten percent of the card’s price ie Rs1,000 should be paid up by the government in advance as incentive and women could buy them by paying only 30 percent of the price which means Rs3,000 out of Rs10,000. These solar cards should be available at all branches of National Saving Centres and the National Bank of Pakistan. Each of these cards should have a code number. Women with biometric verified

mobile numbers would text their codes to their respective mobile company. Cellular companies would have to have a joint databank of all solar card codes which would also be the solar account numbers of the cardholders.
Once the code number is registered with the respective cellular company women would be able to go to a programme registered solar vendor and buy a basic set of solar-powered fan. The price of a solar fan with integrated light combo unit is around Rs7,000; the price could be even further reduced for mass sales to be generated by this programme.
The solar vendor would put the code number into the cellular company system and would be paid through a mobile banking system. The cost paid to the vendor – sixty percent of the price – would be shared by the solar company/distributor registered in the programme and the respective government programme agency on a fifty-fifty basis.
At the time of the purchase women would enter into a simple contract of paying monthly instalments of Rs 250 or Rs500 by filling in a prescribed form with their CNIC copies. These monthly instalments would be easily paid through special mobile phone solar cards issued by cellular companies with some extra percentage of profit for them like for example in the denomination of Rs275 and Rs550 for Rs250 and Rs500 instalments.
The solar company/distributor would share 25 percent of their product profit with the government programme agency for helping the programme. Non-payment or late payments of instalments would entail penalties – although women are generally reputed to be honest payers of debt.
The proposed scheme could subsequently be evolved into bigger packages. This scheme would empower women to create some respite from loadshedding for their families besides encouraging the culture of solar energy usage at home for a better, safer environment. Women empowered with solar power would be able to earn a better position for themselves within their families.
Women generally have large social networks – a quality that could help spread awareness of the scheme. It would also increase business activities and government revenue besides alleviating to some extent people’s suffering under loadshedding. Furthermore, this scheme could be an initial step towards the concept of c-governance (cellular governance).
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