BY LUNGA MASUKU
Women who come from rural backgrounds have just been equipped with skills that will enable them to fix solar engineered and water harvesting equipment.
The absence of a policy that can assist rural women set up solar micro-energy suppliers that will enable them to sell energy to the national grid has always been an issue that prompted the eSwatini Energy Regulatory Authority, previously known as SERA, to be hard at work trying to set up a policy framework.
One of the first ladies to get such an opportunity is Winile Lukhele from Luzelweni area, found at the foot of Ntfungula Mountains, a few kilometres from Mankayane Town. Speaking to Siyalu Media, shesaid they left the country in February 2019 to begin the journey of the numerous trainings on the course, where they returned in September of the same year.
Again during last year’s trip, Lukhele left the country with another equally capable lady, where she stated that at first she was a bit worried that she was not going to cope because she did not complete her high school education. After a few weeks at Barefoot College, she realised that her fears were unfounded.
“This was after I became one of the best students such that my lecturers ended up referring other students to me if they encountered challenges with their studies. Some of the things we were taught about included creating a charge controller, diva lantern, led lamp, solar torch and also on how to fix it when it comes to maintenance,” Lukhele said.
Other subjects they were taught included skills on how to produce chalk, sanitary pads, clay stoves, small stoves that uses solar energy, candles and washable reusable sanitary pads. Lukhele added that they were further taught business principles on how to prepare a business plan and a comprehensive budget for the businesses that they intended to start soon.
Previously, the Republic of India’s government used to sponsor men but after seeing them upon return, they would leave their home areas to look for greener pastures, thus this prompted the Indian Government together with the Coalition on Informal Economy Associations in Swaziland (CIEAES) to decide that maybe women should also be considered for such opportunities as they may return to improve their home areas. Again in the previous year, six more ladies were sent to India before the COVID-19 the pandemic broke out, which saw them remaining there until most world countries relaxed their border and travel restrictions. This helped them to return to the country about two months ago.
While appreciating the milestones and the positive changes that have been introduced in their lives, Lukhele was short of words to describe the type of assistance that has been availed by the Indian Government, who sponsored them for the trip including other associated costs thereof, which has seen their lives change for the better. On another note, Lukhele sent a special plea to corporates and the Government of the Kingdom of eSwatini regarding any financial support or otherwise since they would like to put their knowledge into good practice, by establishing their own businesses, thereby contributing to the availability of employment opportunities to the youth and women, in particular. Lukhele also said she was very excited to be part of the Vukani Bomake Project, which is the brainchild of Business Women eSwatini, led by businesswoman Tokky Hou, another local woman who rose through the ranks from humble beginnings to be in the textile and apparel industry. Under the Business eSwatini led by Chief Executive Officer Nathie Dlamini, the Vukani Bomake Project has been of assistance to government when they produced thousands of face masks that the entity bought to donate to government during the fight against the world enemy COVID-19.