Dines Msampha, 42, Solar Mama

Empowering women and powering communities

Solar Mama Rural Electrification project

The Solar Mama Rural Electrification project is simultaneously bringing electricity to rural communities, and empowering women in those communities through education and training.

'Solar Mamas' are women from the rural Lilongwe west region who had dropped out of education before completing primary school, so limiting their opportunities to earn a decent living.

A woman smiles as she uses a screwdriver to fix a large solar lantern, as a group of younger people gather round and watch.
VSO/Peter Caton
Female solar engineers are trained to repair lanterns and other equipment - improving both their own economic opportunities and those of the wider community.

Through the project, they've been trained as engineers, learning how to build and maintain solar-powered lighting and generators. In doing so, not only are they bringing sustainable, low-cost energy to their villages - but they're also benefiting from increased self-esteem and a changed perception of women’s roles.

The Mamas are paid by the community to install and maintain the systems, meaning they get a steady stream of improved income, whilst the rest of the village saves money that would otherwise be spent on batteries, candles and generators.

Having a reliable source of lighting for the evenings also means that everyone benefits from more hours in the day to pursue income-generating activities - so improving the economic resilience of the whole community.

Here in the village, people expect women to just be at home, cooking for the family, ensuring the kids are fed and wearing clean clothes. Now, people are starting to change their perception towards us.

Eililoy Kamwendo, 62, Solar Mama

Stories from the Solar Mama Rural Electrification project:

Eililoy Kamwendo smiles as the sun hits her face and her husband puts his arm around her shoulder
VSO/Peter Caton

"I'm more confident and fearless now" - Eililoy's story

After being trained as a solar engineer as part of the Solar Mama project in Malawi, 62-year-old Eililoy Kamwendo is witnessing first-hand how attitudes towards women are changing in her community.

Solar Mama Dines smiles as she stands outside in the sun holding a solar panel
VSO/Peter Caton

"Now I know that I can do things on my own" - Dines' story

A single mother whose husband left her when their children were still young, Dines Msampha, 42, has seen her monthly income more than double since she was trained as a Solar Mama.

Women hold up solar lanterns in Malawi
©VSO/Peter Caton

Meet the mamas fighting poverty through solar power

Solar energy has the power to transform lives in Malawi, where just one in ten people has access to electricity. Eight extraordinary women on a VSO pilot project are lighting new paths to prosperity.