Sabah Women Entrepreneurs & Professionals Association (SWEPA)

Project Title: SWEPA Barefoot Solar Project 1.0& 2.0
Duration: 36 months over two consecutive projects
Location: Kg Sonsogon Magandai, Kg Sg Magandai, Kg Sonsogon Suyad & Binontungan Suyad, Kota Marudu, Sabah.

A unique village project that empowers Sabah’s MARGINALIZED INDIGENOUS ILLITERATE WOMEN who are GRANDMOTHERS as solar ‘engineers’ of the SWEPA BAREFOOT solar electrification system in their own, off-grid and inaccessible communities.

SWEPA Barefoot Solar Projects (SBSP) 1.0 and 2.0 have successfully empowered and trained 3 marginalized indigenous illiterate women who are grandmothers as solar “engineers”, adopted and managed 200 solar units for four villages without the need for external technicians. So far 200 homes of about 1100 people have access to sustainable energy and education. These women solar “engineers” have in turn trained other women and men to operate and maintain the installed solar panels.

How did this project create impact to the employees/ volunteers?

There were a sense of pride as achievement among the volunteers as they work as a team to share and empower the villagers to ensure they can provide sustainable energy, development and economic growth to their communities. It brings great hope for the future at how much more the volunteers can do when they stand holding hands compare to when they stand with hands apart.

What impact has this project created in the community / nation?

Through SBSP initiative, SWEPA, has provided the villagers opportunity to learn about leadership, family management and planning, socio-economic activities and the importance of education for their children.  With proper family planning and education, their young children may be able to take better roles. Also partnered with the government to develop their rural communities in the future.

Who were the partners in this project and what their roles?

  • Barefoot College India – provide the illiterate grandmothers  6 months technical training in India
  • Asian Forestry Co – identifying the village and provide logistical support
  • SGP-GEF Programs & Tan Sui Lin Foundation – provide funding for the solar equipments
  • Raleigh Borneo – provide volunteers to build the Rural Electrical Workshop
  • BOMBA – provide heli to airlift the solars , etc.

How was this project help to advance the chosen SDG?

Barefoot solar women play the key role in sustaining and replicating solar technology in rural communities, change the perception of what is professional for rural villages and challenge both age and gender barriers. A testament to show that women’s  effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making is key in implementing the new development agenda.

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