Using the Power of the Sun to Reduce Violence Against Women

By SELF Executive Director, Robert Freling

For the first time in American history, legions of survivors are being encouraged to speak out and bear witness to their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Those among us with a moral conscience respond to these sordid accounts with revulsion for the perpetrators and anger on behalf of those who have suffered. But our anger cannot stop here.

There are millions more women and girls without the means to tell the world that they have been assaulted and raped, especially in arid, Sub-Saharan countries where they often have to walk, unprotected, for miles to get water in remote areas. Fearing retribution for speaking out against their attackers, most remain silent. In addition to suffering physical, mental, and emotional damage, many end up pregnant and infected with sexually transmitted diseases. For most of the young girls, their lives have been irrevocably changed, offering little hope for their future. Why is there silence instead of outrage for these women and girls? Most people in industrialized societies do not know these conditions exist. If you are one of them, that changes today when you read this. Our anger needs to translate into action.

In 2018, SELF is planning to confront this serious problem with our most powerful tool: solar electricity. We will implement a pilot project in a Ugandan village to power clean water stations and street lights—keeping the women and girls in well-lit areas close to home. We will also work with partners to provide solar cookers (to avoid wood collection in the bush) and to develop an educational outreach program. Next to the Solar Market Garden program we first devised for Benin 10 years ago (combining solar pumps with drip irrigation to improve food security), this may be one of our most ambitious projects yet. When the Ugandan pilot project is proven successful, we will seek to replicate it throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

Please help SELF mobilize our resources to launch this humanitarian endeavor and spare women and girls the unspeakable threats to their well-being.

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