Over 10 million people in Rajasthan, India have little or no access to electricity, with 22% of these households turning to kerosene to brighten their homes. Kerosene, a highly flammable and toxic fuel, has significant effects on human health, often leading to burns, accidental ingestion by children, eye irritation, and dermatitis. Women and children are the most severely affected by the side effects of kerosene, but lack the capital to purchase cleaner forms of energy.
While women suffer the most from the use of unclean energy, Frontier Markets is proving that women can also be the solution to energy inequity in rural Rajasthan, by training rural women to become “Saral Jeevan Sakhis”, or “Easy Life Friends.” Saral Jeevan Sakhis (SJS) are rural bottom of the pyramid women who were hand-selected to be saleswomen for Frontier Markets, leveraging their community ties to sell solar products to other villagers. SJS have helped Frontier Markets brighten over 125,000 homes with solar, reducing the risk for kerosene-related health problems, but the benefits of solar go far beyond just health. Solar products allow children to study even when darkness falls, and can increase safety for women in remote areas. SJS earn an average monthly income of $35, of which they invest around 90% back into their families, spending their hard-earned money on their children’s schooling, clothing, health needs, and other household necessities, improving rural livelihood.
Munni, 27, has been a Saral Jeevan Sakhi for two years, successfully earning her own income and no longer having to ask her husband or anyone else for money. Like most of the 1,000 trained SJS, Munni invests the majority of her earnings as an SJS back into her family, spending her income on her children’s school fees and household necessities. When selling solar products to other women, she emphasizes the benefits her own three children have received from switching from kerosene to clean energy.
“Kerosene oil lamps can catch on fire near children, and when children study they get smoke in their eyes and nose, and the air gets black. People will be safer [with solar energy],” she explains.
With solar, Munni no longer has to choose between access to light and the safety of herself and her children. Frontier Markets products are also 5 times brighter than kerosene and safe for children to operate, so “Until 12 or 1am, the light is on and my children can study,” Munni adds. With solar energy, Munni’s children are able to study in darkness and in storms, unlike many others in her village who depend on unreliable electricity or kerosene.
Impact on Munni
• Like most SJS, Munni earns around $35 monthly
• Munni has made a sustainable investment in solar, no longer worrying about electricity bills
• Munni saves Rs.2500 ($39) per year from switching from kerosene oil to solar
“My self-confidence has increased. I used to stay here [in the house] only, now after becoming a SJS, I can go outside. Earlier, I hadn’t even seen Dholpur, but now I can go to Dholpur and even Jaipur. I can go alone, and also with someone, and I can talk to anyone. So now I am able to meet my expenses, and also spend for my child’s studies.”
• Munni can now speak to anyone in the village
• Munni no longer fears kerosene burning her children or hurting their eyes
• Munni has the independence to save and spend her own money for the first time in her life
“We have more illumination or lighting now. Earlier I used mud lamps, so I used to get smoke in my eyes and nose. When I used to go to sleep, my child may accidentally get burned. Now since I have used the FM torch, I have not used kerosene oil.”