A Multiplier Effect of one Woman’s Empowerment

District: Nalanda, Bihar Village: Mahmuda

Mahmuda is a small village located in the Islampur Block of Nalanda District in Bihar. The village is home to nearly 8300 people, whose primary sources of income are cultivating small plots of land and allied activities like poultry farming. Like many other villages in the country, the people of Mahmuda lack access to key infrastructure facilities such as connectivity by road, drinking water and electricity. Despite the village being covered under the central government’s Rajiv Gandhi Viddhyutikaran Yojana (RGVY) scheme, the village was still not connected to the grid.

In 2012, a solar charging station was installed in the Mahmuda village. Baby Devi, an enterprising woman, was selected to operate and manage this facility. The advent of solar lanterns opened new avenues of livelihood and income generation for many women in the village. Following this, local government officials approached Baby Devi and leaent about the positive impacts the solar lighting solution was having on the village. They offered to train her to make incense sticks (agarbattis) under a vocational scheme supported by Punjab National Bank. Baby Devi not only completed this training successfully, but also passed on her learning and skills to 12 other women in her village. Now, in addition to renting out the lanterns at night, Baby Devi also runs an agarbatti making center at her home where the 12 women she trained come every evening after completing their household chores to make incense sticks. Each woman is able to make 3- 4 kilos of agarbattis in a day, which results in a monthly income of 3000 to 4000 rupees. The bright and clear light of the solar lamp allows them to maintain high product quality and produce three agarbatti varieties in the form Medium, Super and Thin.

Rinku, a 20 year old woman, who rents the solar lantern also makes agarbattis at Baby Devi’s home. Rinku say that if they did not have the solar lanterns, they would be making poor quality agarbattis and earning much less than they do now. She also recognizes the benefit her children have drawn from having better light to study an extra 2 to 3 hours in the evening in.

Besides the use of solar lanterns to make agarbattis, 8 to 9 lanterns are rented out every day to shop owners to do business for a few hours after sunset. Ramu uses his solar lantern to sell milk to nearby villages at night. Now, because of the extra time he can use to sell milk, he has been able to enhance his income by 3000 rupees. Shabir rents three lanterns every day to tutor the village children from 7 to 9 in the evenings. With nearly 20 children coming for his evening tuitions, Shabir’s monthly income has increased to 4000 rupees a month.

The provision of solar lanterns has replaced the use of kerosene lamps in many homes of Mahmuda village and has brought a new ray of hope for these people. Women use lanterns to do household work besides using them for income generating activities. Children are able to study for an extra 2 to 3 hours in the evenings. The villagers recognize how this has been a life changing development for them and are happy to have been covered under the initiative.

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