Women + Clean Energy Independence Equals Opportunity

Investing in clean energy access is one of the most meaningful ways to improve the livelihoods of families and communities in remote areas. For India’s rural communities, access to clean energy is a vital step to improving income, health and education, and alleviating poverty. Energy access programs also help empower women, by providing them with new learning opportunities and lessening the time they spend on labor-intensive tasks, such as having to walk for miles to access clean water.

Since 2015, Bank of America has provided approximately $1.7 million (US dollars) in grants to Professional Assistance to Development Action (PRADAN), an India-based nonprofit organization that is helping lift local communities out of poverty. PRADAN provides energy access to Jharkhand, one of the least developed states in India, offering opportunities to enhance livelihoods, develop sustainable agriculture, and improve access to water.

The program involves installing solar micro-grids in rural areas and complements this effort with other services. Through our grants, the program is helping more than 700 households in Jharkhand, supporting water pump solar technology that provides clean drinking water to six villages and solar water pumps for irrigation purposes.

“Our partnership with Bank of America in India is providing clean energy through solar micro-grids to rural families. The partnership provides rural communities with access to clean and renewable energy and enhances their quality of life through a community-based model of clean power generation,” said Avijit Choudhury, Integrator, PRADAN.

Partnering for a greater good

In Jharkhand, a name which means ‘a land covered with forests’, villagers depend on farming and agriculture for their livelihoods. Despite the abundance of natural resources, these tribal settlements have long been trapped in rural poverty due to the land’s adverse topography.

These densely populated, yet remote communities suffer from poor infrastructure, heavy monsoons, drought and scarce energy access. Typically, 34% of households covered under the energy access program are led by women who, before PRADAN arrived, were spending most of their time performing household chores, including travelling up to two to three hours every day to collect water.

It was because of this that PRADAN expanded beyond energy access to include the provision of piped water connections and solar-powered irrigation pumps. The benefits have been life-changing for many: economic mobility is improving because women are able to devote the time saved from accessing water to farming activities; the availability of clean water is improving sanitation and hygiene in the communities.

Energy empowerment

A key pillar of PRADAN’s program is the educational outreach to help local communities better understand the value energy infrastructure can bring to their lives. Women are the primary focus of the outreach, helping many of them become program decision makers in their communities as a result.

Today, the majority of the Village Electrification Committees are led by women, who lead the decision making on the location of solar micro-grids, the collection of monthly dues, and the type of household appliances they should invest in.

PRADAN has seen the ownership of household appliances increase by 31% on average in areas covered by its energy access program. For example, the purchase of electric mixers and grinders is reducing time spent on milling and food preparation, while clean-energy cooking stoves are reducing indoor air pollution. Now that these villages have access to electricity, spending on traditional fossil fuels such as kerosene and firewood has dropped significantly.

The reduced time spent on household chores is also having an impact on social mobility too, with women increasingly exploring home-based enterprises, especially if they can make use of the newly-acquired household appliances. Refrigerators are helping some run small shops, while grinding equipment is enabling others to run a small flour milling enterprise from home, for example.

“My life has changed for the better after getting energy access. My health has improved and I am financially better placed today than I was before,” said Mangri Devi, a villager from Jharkhand’s gumla district.

For the women of Jharkhand this program is having a transformative effect. PRADAN is taking the project beyond clean energy access and making lives better for entire communities.

Learn more about PRADAN

PRADAN, founded in 1983, has approximately 400 professionals with expertise in management, engineering, agriculture, and the social sciences working in 7,400 remote villages across India.


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