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Solar Projects Empowering Women in Yemen

There hasn't been much good news coming out of Yemen for a while, and the country ranks as the worst country in the world for women on the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Index. So, here's some good news!

The conflict in Yemen has forced millions of people to flee their homes, and left communities facing poverty and hunger. Access to energy - low even before the fighting began - has been badly affected.

In rural Yemen, many people have no access to power or are reliant on polluting diesel generators. However, one group of women have found ongoing employment by building a solar micro-grid providing energy for their community. The 10 women, who live in the Abs district in the north of the country close to the border with Saudi Arabia, set up the micro-grid in 2019 and it's now providing them with a sustainable income and allowing the women to develop professional skills.

“At first, they made fun of us, that we want to do men’s work. But now, the community is respecting us as we are business owners,” said Iman Ghaleb, one of the micro-grid owners. “This project has built the trust and broken the red line in dealing with men. We are now contributing to the family monthly budget to cover food and other life requirements.”

Abs is one of three rural communities where women and young people have been trained to set up and manage solar micro-grids to bring electricity to the area. Two similar micro-grids have been set up in other rural districts and all are thought to be the first privately run energy sources in the country.

The project, which is run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), tackles two major challenges in Yemen: access to affordable energy and providing income for women and young people. They were supported on the ground by UNDP’s implementing partners - Care International and Social Fund for Development. Its successes in these areas saw the project win an Ashden Award for sustainable development earlier this year.

More than half of Yemen’s rural population does not have access to energy. Before the grids, the community in Abs was reliant on diesel generators. According to Arvind Kumar, Yemen project manager at UNDP, 10,000 people now have access to clean power and electricity bills have been cut by 65 per cent. The micro-grid model is “the way forward” for energy in rural areas of Yemen, he added.

The next step is to secure private-sector funding to build more micro-grids, with the objective of building 100 in total across remote areas of the country, in order to keep schools and hospitals open during the conflict.

Let's hope that there will soon be more good news from Yemen.

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