Eskom
Featured image: Stock

Law firm Hogan Lovells and social enterprise Barefoot College International, will this month feature a 30-minute documentary, following the journey of the Solar Mamas – women from developing countries who have been trained as solar engineers.

The feature film 'Flip the Switch', will be premiered on April 30th in partnership with Impact New York.

Flip the Switch has received critical acclaim and to date has been awarded official selection status at 10 international film festivals.

Throughout the world 1.1 billion people are living without power. The majority of these people live in developing countries, in villages that have no other form of light beside natural light.

According to official data, only 7.3% of India’s villages have complete household connectivity, and the World Bank reports that over 300 million Indians are still living in the dark, even though 200 million of them are from villages that are thought to have electricity.

In 2016, Hogan Lovells launched a three-year partnership with Barefoot College – a social enterprise working in nearly 100 countries – to empower mostly illiterate women around the world by training them as Solar Mamas. The initiative aims to bring clean, renewable light to 20,000 families (200,000 people) in rural villages across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands.

“Partnering with Hogan Lovells has been fantastic,” comments Meagan Fallone, Director of Barefoot College International.

Fallone continued: “Over the last three years, we’ve managed to help thousands of people in developing countries by empowering one woman at a time to change her life, and transform the lives of all those around her. Now, every time a Solar Mama turns on the power for her village, she’s helping the whole community prosper.”

Once the Solar Mamas have learned to build, install, and maintain solar panels and batteries in their communities, they also have the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills. For example, many women use their sewing skills to launch a craft business, while others learn to make and sell coffee. As a result, the Solar Mamas programme opens doors for other possibilities that can dramatically enhance the lives of women, their families, and their communities. Read: Scholarships transforming the energy sector

"In my village, there are 68 households. All the panels and lights for these home, I installed. I want to learn even more solar. I want to do more than I have already," says Florentina Choc, a Solar Mama from St. Helena, Belize. “Once I brought light to my community I could see it. Something changed in the village, not like before when we stayed in the dark. Now my village has light.”

According to the World Bank, women in work invest 90% of their earnings back into their families and communities, whereas men only invest 35%. This money is usually spent on food, healthcare, home renovations, and education for themselves and their children.

The Solar Mamas programme acts as a catalyst to create employment, boost income, and provide self-reliant solutions for village communities. It’s also working toward several of the UN’s SDGs, including:

  • SDG 1: No Poverty
  • SDG 5: Gender Equality
  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8: Good Jobs and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequality
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption
  • SDG 13: Climate Action

“The partnership between Hogan Lovells and Barefoot College is helping achieve SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals,” says Lord McConnell, Chair of the UK's All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sustainable Development Goals.

“By improving training and employment opportunities for local communities and making sure the business environment is safe and comfortable, the partnership demonstrates how business objectives can complement social impact and sustainable, community development. We believe it should be at the heart of every business model as it’s integral to good business and successful economic growth," McConnell added. Read more: Women in Energy | Fusing of industrial and energy markets

“It is easy to talk about responsibility, to put the words down on paper, and then simply walk away. That isn’t who we are,” says Stephen Immelt, CEO of Hogan Lovells, “and that's why we have a firmwide commitment to empowering women and girls. And one of the ways we do this is through our global partnership with Barefoot College, which helps us tackle the issue of gender inequality and support women in business. By investing in one woman, we know that the knowledge she’s gained will benefit the whole community.”

For more information on the 'Flip the Switch' New York City Premiere on 30 Aprilh, visit here.