Real Leaders

Madagascar’s Solar Grandmothers Lead a Renewable Revolution

In the small village of Ambakivao, Madagascar, a group of women have stepped up to become their community’s first solar engineers.

These volunteers — dubbed the Solar Grandmothers — are bringing electricity to nearly 200 families in their village. Traditionally, their community used petroleum lamps for lighting homes. Now they have implemented solar lamps for lighting and other household tasks. The use of solar energy reduces pollution and the community’s overall footprint. Remeza, Kingeline, Yollande, and Hanitra (above, left to right) are all part of WWF’s access to sustainable energy programs managed in collaboration with India’s Barefoot College.

The four women joined women from several other countries for six months of training in India in applied solar technology. Most women entering the program leave their country — sometimes even their native regions or villages — for the first time. The village elects a solar committee to run the administrative, social, and financial aspects of the solar program and ensure its economic sustainability.

“Women often lack courage where I’m from, so I want to tell them: Be courageous and be strong,” says Yollande. “Don’t be afraid and take your responsibilities, whatever your burden or load, because it’s better to be in charge and discover new things.”