By Katherine Lucey
Founder and CEO, Solar Sister
It is often underserved communities who are disproportionately affected in times of crisis and natural disaster. As Solar Sister first started to face the challenges created by the global COVID-19 pandemic, we asked ourselves questions with the most vulnerable in mind, such as: How do we best keep those we love and serve safe? How do we best reach out and help our neighbors and the most vulnerable in our local and global community? How do we provide leadership and continued support in the face of so much uncertainty, fear and disruption?
The impacts of COVID-19 on women clean energy entrepreneurs in rural communities has been both immediate and heartbreaking. These are women who have worked so hard to build businesses that have provided tangible contributions to their families and their communities. We have all heard the statistic that women invest up to 90% of their profits back into their families – it is this money that puts a healthy diet on the table, pays for girls’ education and allows for healthcare payments. It is these profits that have evaporated due to COVID-19 as local markets came to a standstill. In talking with the women entrepreneurs it is disheartening to hear how so many have had to dip into their business capital simply to put food on the table and survive. When women’s income is curtailed, as it has been during this time, all of those positive impacts come to a halt. It is not just the loss of business income, it is the loss of health, education and opportunity for a better future.
The availability of COVID-19 support and relief has been limited at best, and it does not seem to be reaching last-mile communities. When asked about the availability of COVID-19 recovery packages within their communities, Solar Sister entrepreneurs reported virtually none. In the rare cases where support like food distribution was offered, it wasn’t able to reach everyone in the community due to limited availability and resources.
This is why the Shine COVID-19 Recovery Fund Grant will make such a difference to those who need it the most. Deliberately and intentionally designed to fill the gaps left by other funds, it is focused on providing support directly to the local entrepreneurs who are the hardest hit by the pandemic, the least likely to receive assistance from anywhere else, and the best positioned to put the money to work to create tangible and immediate impact. The impact on these local businesses will be transforming, allowing women to restart businesses and regain lost income. I joined Shine’s Council of Women Leaders in Energy Access because I saw this as an opportunity to combine forces with this amazing group of changemakers to take action and move money to where it matters most.
Our job now is to spread the word to make sure that local women entrepreneurs know that Shine’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund Grant is meant for them. We need to reach out to make sure to reach local entrepreneurs who have been bringing clean energy to their communities through their local enterprises. Women are the heart of local, rural communities. With support, they can restart and rebuild local economies that truly benefit all and leave no one behind.