Be inspired by #BFPOxford Keynote speaker Monique Ntumngia, as she tells us more about the Green Girls Organisation, an award-winning clean energy technological innovation, which is creating a route towards economic independence for women and girls in Africa.
“But Madam, we do not have lights; how are we going to be able to study at night?
“When we go into the bushes to search for firewood for cooking, we usually get raped. Madam, we need this to stop.”
Aminata, the leader of a group of Muslim girls, presented these questions to my team in September 2014 when I was working in Kano, Northeastern Nigeria, as a programme officer in charge of gender and human rights. Aminata eloquently put into words why it is vital to ensure women and girls have access to clean energy for their various needs. The world at large is facing an energy crisis, and African rural women and girls are its primary victims.
I founded Green Girls to create solutions to this problem. We train rural women and girls in clean energy technology, empowering them to provide renewable energy to rural communities and at the same time to become financially independent and sustain their households. Our work is supported by 15 international partners, and we’ve now been recognised by nine national and international awards.
Our innovative algorithm, the MNKB92® model, allows us to collect data and assess which clean energy solutions are most appropriate in each community, and to train the women and girls who will benefit the most from our programme. Our students learn how to meet their own energy needs, including how to build solar lamps, how to install solar panels, and how to construct and operate biodigesters which produce biogas for cooking. This new knowledge presents opportunities for women to become financially independent, so we teach them the skills to set up businesses selling solar lamps and packaging the biodigesters’ by-products for sale as organic fertiliser. This fertiliser can also be used on their own land, boosting their crop yields and providing organic crops to sell. We partner with private sector organisations, coaching the women and girls to draw up business plans, run their business and accounts, and scale up their activities.
In the five years since Green Girls was established, we have:
We use our work to raise awareness of climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we plant trees to help restore woodland that was cut down for firewood before the biodigesters were installed. To reach as many people as possible, we have created 33 Green Girls Clubs so that the women and girls we have trained can act as peer educators to others in their community.
Skilling women and girls in clean energy technology makes their lives safer, healthier and more secure. More than this, it helps them unlock their potential through education and employment.
Winning the Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition Social Impact Challenge will enable us to benefit more communities with sustainable energy solutions. Our MNKB92® model is highly scalable and replicable; the prize money from this award will permit us to construct 20 new biodigesters to provide biogas to over 100 rural households in 20 new communities and to carry out 100 solar installations providing electricity to 100 rural households. We will train 2000 women and 2000 girls in the process.
Beyond this, Green Girls Organisation will continue to break barriers and to place girls at the forefront of innovative technology and sustainable energy, working to close the huge gender gap that exists in the domain of STEM and ensuring that women in rural communities are included in the green economy. Our mission is to make Cameroon a role model for the use of renewable energy and to create a pan-African movement for climate action which calls on African Governments to provide access to finance for women-led clean energy businesses.
In this 21st Century, no woman, no girl, has to be denied the right to clean and affordable energy. No woman has to be raped because she had to go into the forest to fetch firewood. Green Girls was set up to tackle these issues. But as an unapologetic feminist, I’m proud that it also inspires women and girls to believe in the beauty of their dreams and to know that ambition, success and wealth has no gender.
The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a competition calling on entrepreneurs to submit innovative and impactful solutions to solve specific challenges. Its Women’s Global Edition for the first time specifically celebrates the work of women entrepreneurs around the world, inviting entries in two categories: FinTech and Social Impact. The Social Impact Challenge asks how women entrepreneurs can drive social impact outcomes across micro and small business development, social and environmental responsibility and community engagement. The challenge received 964 entries of which six were selected as Regional Finalists. Monique Ntumngia was selected by a panel of judges including Business Fights Poverty’s co-founder, Zahid Torres-Rahman, at a Finals event held in Paris in June 2019 during the opening weekend of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The winner of the Social Impact Challenge receives US$ 100,000 in prize money as well as mentorship opportunities.