The revolution of equality: Mujeres del Sol 2017

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March 20, 2017

Each year, GRID offers a unique opportunity for Nicaraguan women who are interested in the renewable energy industry to gain hands-on solar installation experience by participating in our "Mujeres del Sol" project. In January 2017, 10 women installed a 1 kW off-grid PV system on a primary school and health clinic in Los Encuentros, Estelí. Paola Pérez Belli is an environmental engineer from Managua who works in a governmental program focused on sustainable electrification and renewable energy. She reflects on her experience participating in this project.

It was around ten o’clock in the morning and we were crossing rivers on a bumpy road leading to the community of Los Encuentros. As we continued furthur and furthur into the mountains of Esteli, the houses continued getting more and more disperse and the road more and more narrow and rocky. I started feeling a bit worried about how I would handle the conditions we were going to face, and soon my worry turned into panic. I started asking myself, “what am I getting myself into?” It was at this moment that a constant battle begun, a battle between my comfort and my eagerness to learn and grow.

When we finally arrived to the community, we were grouped into partners and taken to our respective homestays, where we would be living for the next three days. My family consisted of Carlos, Sara, their three children and one nephew. I observed as the oldest daughter, Carla, who was 12 years old attended to her father, serving him food and obeying his every request. Quickly I began to perceive the gender norms that manifest themselves in Nicaraguan families. Without judgement I began to notice more of these behaviors, which at the moment, started reflecting a large gap between us as visitors and the inhabitants of this rural community. Yet despite this gap in our economic and social contexts, there was a larger gender manifesto that stood out: ten women who had left their routines and comfort zones to volunteer in installing two photovoltaic systems in a rural community isolated from the country’s electrical grid.

As the days passed, I got to know the other volunteers- nine young women with an incredible amount of spunk and energy. I began to admire my companions and feel proud of being part of a generation of women who don’t limit themselves to the stereotypes, who get out of their comfort zone to help others in need and who study a career that society has taught them is for men. One day as we were working at the health clinic, a woman was waiting by the gate with her young daughter after getting medical attention from the nurse. She stood for awhile longer gazing at the volunteers working on the roof and commented, “wow, I’ve never seen so many women working like this.” In this precise moment we were making a revolution. Not only for ourselves, but also for the women in the community who got to observe and interact with this group of slightly rambunctious, hard-working, and dedicated women.

Beyond bringing electricity to this community, without knowing it, we were planting a seed that will continue expanding its roots in the community. In a small but profound way, we are empowering young women to make tangible changes in our society, in spite of the adversities and the gender norms that have held us back and categorized us as the weaker sex.

This was an unforgettable experience. It’s a very exciting time in history to be a woman knowing that we can be part of the change. As a woman, every day is a revolution.

"One of the greatest forces that moves the world in our age is the revolution of equality." ~Barbara Ward

Click here to see photos from this year's Mujeres del Sol project.