14 May 2014

Solomons solar maintenance pilot kicks off PSDI women’s economic empowerment program

As Honiara rebuilds from the devastating floods of April, comes some good news as training starts on PSDI's solar maintenance pilot to advance women's economic empowerment.

Under-investment in Women, who represent 40% of the world’s labour force but hold just 1% of its wealth, is now widely recognized as an opportunity cost for economic growth and business performance. In the Pacific, PSDI, through its Economic Empowerment of Women (EEOW) program, is implementing scalable pilots designed to remove barriers to women’s entry and participation in business and the private sector.
One pilot is aimed at equipping Solomon Islands women with the technical skills to start and run a local solar maintenance and repair business.  In South-West Malaita 718 households have gained many benefits from a solar panel scheme including cost savings on kerosene and diesel, improved safety and increased household productivity. However repair and maintenance of the panels remains a problem. The region’s remote location makes regular visits from the urban centers of Auki and Honiara expensive and complex, and many of the solar panels have fallen into disrepair and require maintenance. PSDI has launched a pilot to address these issues.

Technical skills, access to finance, business training
“We  have been working with the West Are`Are Rokotanikeni Association, an established NGO in the region, to consult with communities and identify women who are well placed to engage in a business to maintain and repair solar panels,” said project leader and PSDI Gender Specialist, Vijaya Nagarajan. “After identifying our enthusiastic entrepreneurs, we brought them to Honiara for their first training session when they received both hands-on training in solar power maintenance as well as advice on how to register their business, open bank accounts and manage business transactions.”
Trainee Rhoda Hina’I was quick to see the benefits of combining solar power maintenance with business skills training: “We need to learn more about maintaining solar so we can develop a new skill to make money to pay school fees or buy at the market”. The skills workshop is to be followed by bi-monthly training sessions in the villages aimed at refreshing technical skills and embedding new practices.

How does this pilot empower women?
Economic empowerment is defined as the power to take economic decisions and benefit from them. Pacific women are constrained from doing so due to many factors. One such constraint is the prescriptive gender roles that restrict many women from acquiring technical skills which further exclude them from the income-earning opportunities that require such skills.
The South-West Malaita pilot equips women with the technical skills necessary to start a solar maintenance business and assists them to form a business, open a bank account and enter into contracts for their supply of services. In doing so it promotes the economic empowerment of women, encourages the development of the private sector and encourages sustainable practices in the economy.
Given the rapid expansion of solar panel technology throughout the outer islands in the Pacific, the pilot shows great promise for replication and scalability.

About PSDI’s EEOW Pilots
PSDI’s pilots focus on increasing women’s private sector activity through a variety of means including  training in technical and business development skills, facilitating access to finance and markets, and  providing mentoring for women in entrepreneurship. Other pilots underway include:
  • Solomon Islands: Improving governance and increasing women’s representation in senior management; promoting sound corporate governance through training and mentoring; and
  • Papua New Guinea: Empowering women in fishing production by strengthening supply chains; training and mentoring, linking them to finance providers and markets.
PSDI is a regional technical assistance facility co-financed by the Asian Development Bank, Australian Aid, and the New Zealand Aid Programme. PSDI works with ADB's 14 Pacific developing member countries to improve the enabling environment for business and support inclusive, private sector–led economic growth.
For more information, contact: Vijaya Nagarajan (B-Ec, LLB, PhD), Gender Specialist
Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative, Asian Development Bank.
Phone +61282709444 (o) 0417719990 (m)
Email: vij.n@adbpsdi.org