Meet Aasia, Hadia and Masajida

By Nana Dei-Anang, Ashden intern
One year on from winning the 2015 Ashden Award for Increasing Energy Access, SRSP is changing the lives of women through clean energy.

The Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) is a non-profit organisation which was established in 1989. It works with communities in the remote North West region of Pakistan, generating electricity from hydropower.

SRSP saw huge potential for hydropower due to the natural geography of the region which is endowed with many rivers and streams. Starting in 2004, SRSP developed micro-hydro power schemes in numerous villages to provide electricity to remote areas.

The resultant increased access to clean energy has had economic and developmental impacts, especially for women who have predominantly been supported by SRSP through its Enterprise Development and Skill Enhancement programme.

The programme, coupled with the financial assistance toolkits provided by Ashden, which are based on individual needs, is making a huge difference in their lives. For the first time, women in some parts of the region are able to earn an income.

Take Aasia, for example, a forty-five year old woman who lives in a village with a lot fruit trees. She decided to use this to her economic advantage and started drying and selling persimmons. The establishment of micro-hydro units in the area allowed her to use cost-effective and efficient electrical dryers to dry the persimmon.

With the support and training provided to her by SRSP, and with the Ashden Awards prize money, SRSP purchased equipment, which enabled her to produce 30kg of dried red persimmons. As a result, she made 10,000 PKR (£72) that season. She now plans to produce an even greater yield to increase her income and support her family.

For Hadia, a woman from the conservative district of Bahrain, the enterprise development training offered by SRSP, and a toolkit equipped with material for hairdressing bought with Ashden prize money allowed her to increase her income. She did this by opening up a hairdressing business.

The establishment of a micro-hydro project means that electricity is available 24 hours a day which has played a role in building the success of her establishment. She has been able to increase her monthly income to 15,000 PKR (£108) which will help her support her five dependents, as she is the sole earner.

In the district of Swat, being a divorcee is a social stigma. Masajida was shunned when, upon divorcing her husband, was sent back to her family’s home. However, she refused to become dependent on them and took advantage of the SRSP programme to become economically productive.

The renewable and affordable electricity in her village provided by SRSP micro-hydro projects allowed her to meet deadlines of orders she received. Over time, she has managed to increase her income from 3,000 PKR (£22) to 10,000 PKR (£72).

As has been illustrated by the experiences of Aasia, Hadia and Masajida, the improved access to electricity has allowed them to start earning an income and expand their businesses. Hopefully this is just one of the first of many steps for women’s economic and social empowerment in the region.