October 16 2020

In Nepal, the darkness is receding

« One only needs to become conscious of the truth for error, no matter how deeply rooted, to disappear, just as one only needs to light a lamp for darkness to disperse in a cave, even if it has been kept in obscurity for millions of years. »
Matthieu Ricard,  Karuna-Shechen founder

Electricity is not essential for living, but it does contribute to technological progress and personal comfort throughout the world. Today, 86% of the energy used in rural areas in Nepal is produced by the inhabitants themselves. Although the country #f39200;”>only 65% of its residents are connected to the national grid. The rugged terrain and weather conditions of Nepal, located in the heart of the Himalayas, make access to energy difficult in rural areas, where most of the people live. To address the issue, the government has started a program for electrifying remote areas, but the political and economic context is unstable and slows the project down.

 

Electricity : how does it affect living conditions for villagers ?

« Cottage industry » energy production has detrimental effects on the health and education of rural populations, especially women and children who are more exposed. Since 2015, Karuna-Shechen has been helping these populations by bringing in green energy. Our solar power and women’s empowerment projects in rural villages aim to develop a renewable energy production system and give women greater autonomy. We’ve distributed solar panels to 600 households  in the Sindhuli and Solukhumbu districts and trained 12 women at our facility in Kathmandu.These wowmen are now in charge of installing and maintaining the solar power systems and panels in the households.

Access to solar power drastically transforms living conditions in the villages. In rural areas, people are particularly subject to weather conditions and seasonality : in Nepal, due to lack of lighting, people eat dinner around 6pm and go to bet at nightfall, around 8pm. Having electricity not only brings additional comfort to the families, it also contributes to village unity. Children can do their homework in the evening, daily chores (cooking, washing dishes etc.) are made easier and a social life is finally possible at the day’s end. Everyone benefits from having a more flexible and less constraining lifestyle and a safer environment.

 

Making the world more respectful of women and the environment

The objective of this rural electrification project is two-fold : act for the environment by providing renewable energy and help women become self-reliant. 

Traditionally, Nepalese people use « tuki lights », kerosene lamps, and wood fires to light their homes. These lighting systems give out little light, produce toxic fumes and are a real danger to the villagers. They can cause respiratory problems and frequent housefires. Solar panels offer an alternative that is both respectful of the environment and a source of clean energy for the household

For the women involved, gaining electrical skills leads to greater integration within society. Thanks to their training, they become business owners, earn a salary and act as change agents in what is still a profoundly patriarchal society. By extending out of their traditional role as wives and mothers, they set an example to follow for other women. Not used to this, men may question their role as solar technician and make fun of the way they climb ladders or use electrical equipment. Still, Nepalese society is changing on gender issues and allows greater room for women, who now operate in areas once reserved for men. This is a necessary path, since women often need to take the place of their husbands when they leave to work in town or abroad.

These changing customs are helped by the new sense of safety brought on by lighting in villages. Physical and sexual violence against women is alarming : according to OFPRA (the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) from March 2019, 51,9% of married Nepalese women aged 15 to 24 have stated being subject to violence in one form or the other during their life. Lighting villages at night helps bring down the number of aggressions, and women are less scared of walking in public places. 

The rural solar electrification project is a long-term one. By providing energy that is renewable and respectful of the environment, Karuna-Shechen works in favor of community self-sufficiency and independence. And having received technical training, women can in turn pass on their knowledge to future generations and maintain autonomous power over time. 

The solar power program gives women the means to bring light to remote communities and improve quality of life. Thank you greatly for your support.