Every day at 6:00pm night falls. The only source of light for you and your family is a kerosene lamp and your cell phone´s torch light—if your phone is charged. You have a few candles under your bed but you save them for when you have visitors.  Lights are available yet you can´t use them because you would need electricity to charge them and your house is off-grid. Torchlights are expensive, they consume several batteries every month and their light is not bright enough to light a room. Kerosene prices increase with oil prices while your income remains stagnant. Your children study in the kitchen while you cook dinner so that you can all use the same lamp. After dinner, you turn off the lamp ensuring you will have some fuel left for the next day, and you all go to bed.

This is the situation experienced by many families in rural Nepal. Many homes are still not connected to the grid and those that are connected are exposed to long power outages that last up to 18 hours a day. BoP households (those who live with less than $2.5 dollars per day) are the most affected because they must either spend a big percentage of their income on lighting or live in the dark after the sunset. Children only have a few hours to study after school and adults are not economically productive after the sun is gone. Development is difficult under these circumstances.

The role of Empower Generation in Nepal is essential to help overcome electricity deficiencies in the country. While doing the Monitoring and Evaluation report for EG’s pilot project, I observed direct impacts on customer´s lives, quantifiable in terms of money savings, productivity and longer hours of study. Rural families buy 3 liters of kerosene per month for light. After less than 4 months of using the light that EG distributes, they’re saving money because fuel for solar lamps (the sun) is free. Women work longer hours thanks to improved lighting conditions. One-third of women surveyed are earning extra income from handicraft production or from their small shops that they now keep open longer. Children are studying up to 3 hours more per day from the moment their family has a solar light. Indirect impacts such as health improvement and lesser exposure to fire accidents are also evident. Health improvement–especially for eye infections, breathing problems and headaches—are noticeable within the first month of solar light use.

EG not only powers houses, it also empowers lives. EG’s business model supports women entrepreneurs and gives them the opportunity to increase their financial independence, their confidence and their social image in their communities. The pilot project´s entrepreneur Sita Adhikari exemplifies the strengths of EG´s model: in less than a year, Sita has sold more than 300 lights and has given 6 sales agents the opportunity to generate extra income through the sales of lights. Sita’s customers have access to loans which allow them to pay the solar lights in installments that are—in many cases—lower than the amount of money that they spend on kerosene, candles or torchlights.

When I first learned about EG, I was impressed by the organization and its mission. After five months in the field, I have no doubt that EG is a source of lasting change in Nepal and that it will continue transforming thousands of lives in Asia and empowering women around the continent. I am very happy to have witnessed EG´s growth and evolution during my stay in Nepal and I feel very fortunate to be part of this! Dhanybhad EG, you transformed my life as well.

Ana Maria Martinez