Kamlesh – Empowering Rural Women

When I got married and came to this house, I was never allowed to leave this house. From day 1 I got married, there was a veil in front of my face, and I used to see the world blurry.”

73% of women between the ages of 15-59 in Rajasthan, India are financially dependent on their husbands, feeling unable to leave their homes and speak to others due to traditional gender roles. Kamlesh is one of them.

As soon as Kamlesh heard about Frontier Markets’ Solar Saheli (SS) program through her village’s women’s self-help group, she was hooked. Solar Sahelis, or “Easy Life Friends,” 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 rural villagers.

There are over 1000 women like Kamlesh who have been trained in solar value chain, marketing, communication, and sales, to provide them with the necessary skills to earn a stable income. But the greatest impact has been on the confidence and community respect SS have gained from their work with Frontier Markets, with many able to leave not just their homes for the first time, but their villages—traveling to cities like Jaipur to continue gaining knowledge and representing Frontier Markets.

“I didn’t know what was going on in the world. My life was just inside my house. It was a very simple life,” Kamlesh describes of her now-unrecognizable life as a housewife before becoming a Solar Saheli. As a SS, Kamlesh is a part-time saleswoman and spokesperson for Frontier Markets, educating her neighbors and friends about the benefits of using Frontier Markets’ solar products.

Now, Kamlesh not only earns an income, but also has access to clean, safe energy for her and her family. “When I became a mother, the child would wake up very early around 4 am and I used to take care of her using the mud lamp’s light, and sometimes the baby used to get burns on his hand or his feet,” she explains.

Before becoming an SS, Kamlesh felt confined to her house, caring for her 4 children and rarely leaving her home or interacting with others. “After becoming a SS, the veil got lifted away from my face and I could provide for the small needs for my children,” Kamlesh proudly shares. “At first my children used to go to a government school, then I thought now that I’m earning, why shouldn’t they go to a private school? So I got them admitted to a private school with my own income.”

Now like most SS, Kamlesh earns around $35 per month. She has made a sustainable investment in solar, no longer worrying about electricity bills. Kamlesh prides herself on no longer having to ask anyone for money when she wants to spend on her children’s schooling, health, and household needs. Kamlesh prides herself on her new job, and has earned the respect of her family and community.

“My brother-in-laws are giving me respect which I didn’t use to get from them. I met with the Chief Minister of Rajasthan and I told this to my mother-in-law and they are all very happy that someone from their family got to meet the Chief Minister, which they never thought would be possible. At first my mother-in-law said I didn’t know how to do anything right— how to eat, how to act, how to dress. But now my mother in law is saying her daughter-in-law has become independent and is a class apart from all the other women in the village.”

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