Born in Liberia, Youngor Flomo’s dream was to become a nurse. Without support for training in nursing, she took a position at a renewable energy organisation in the country called Renewables Liberia.
She later attended We Care Solar’s training in Monrovia for UN Women. Youngor loved the training and when she got to participate in health facility installations, she was hooked. She immersed herself in Solar Suitcase installations, obtained technical training in electrical engineering, and before long, was leading her team on hundreds of installations.
“I love installing solar energy because it helps us women to give birth safely and reduces maternal mortality. With the help of the Solar Suitcase, women will not die at night. Midwives can see clearly, and not make mistakes while they are doing deliveries at night. They can do their work safely.”
Youngor’s experience in conducting 250 Solar Suitcase installations in last-mile Liberian health centres has shown her that solar power is critical for safe deliveries and that women need to be leaders in this field.
“Our survival depends on it!” she says.
But women solar installers may not be immediately embraced by rural communities.
“When midwives see us females, they think we are not supposed to climb on top of the clinic. They see us putting ladders, and say, ‘Wow! Are you guys doing the work? Are you not afraid?’ They try and discourage us, thinking that we’re not capable. But as we keep doing the installation, they get used to that.”
Youngor’s commitment to the female inclusion in the renewable energy sector led her to launch her own organisation: WiRE (Women in Renewable Energy). The 15 women at WiRE recognise that women are deeply affected by energy choices in society.
They increase awareness about renewable energy products, take part in policymaking. “We are women and we are the ones benefiting from this programme. We are helping our fellow women to give birth.”
In Zimbabwe, another young woman is breaking stereotypes. The 26-year-old Memory Mahwenda is a graduate of Physics and Renewable Energy at the University of Zimbabwe.
“I enjoy doing my job. I meet with midwives and tell them about We Care Solar to give them an idea of our mission. I love seeing women giving birth in well-lit labor wards without suffering from using candles.”
Being a solar installer is a breakthrough for Memory.
“It’s a source of inspiration for me, but also for other women who now see the potential of doing technical jobs. I motivate them by showing that all of us women can make it. Upon installation of the lights, I meet expectant mothers who are so happy to see a woman bringing light to their health centres. They wish their own daughters could venture into technical jobs,” she explains.