Author: Abby

https://www.youthvoices.live/2016/10/18/can-solar-lanterns-change-girls-lives-in-sierra-leone/

Can solar lanterns change girls’ lives in Sierra Leone?

I’m a co-founder of Connected. United. 4Change, and Bumpe, Sierra Leone, is C.U.4C‘s first international partner school. The school in Bumpe had a lot of amenities and was a very integral part of the community until the rebel war (1991-2002) destroyed it. Now the school has a lack of electricity, technology, bathrooms, staff, and general resources. Currently, the school is running off of a diesel power generator which is very difficult and costly to use. The Bumpe people’s two biggest concerns are the lack of sustainable power and the high early marriage and teenage pregnancy rates.

Hindo Kposowa, from Bumpe, Sierra Leone, explains the issue and the root cause,

“Poverty, especially in rural Sierra Leone, has caused many girls to drop out of school as a result of teenage pregnancy and early marriage. Children in our local communities are obliged to join their parents in the farms after school to help with farm work. Hence, the only time for students to study and do their homework is at night. Bumpe is without electricity supply! Only 1% of the population (mostly business centers) own generators. Many families can only afford one flashlight for the entire household – powered with non-rechargeable batteries which are not sustainable and at times difficult for parents to purchase. During exams, students go out unwillingly to study by business centers powered with a generator. Girls in such situation are many times sexually abused – leading to teenage pregnancy and trauma.”

Hindo came up with a solution that encompasses both issues,

“One solar lantern will help a girl to study at home. This will prevent sexual abuses against girls going out at night in search of generator power supply to study or sexually trade their body to afford candles or non-rechargeable batteries for solar lanterns.” Additionally, there are countless studies that link high early marriage and teen pregnancy rates to a lack of education. If we can keep girls in school, we can help them receive a higher education and decrease the need for them to marry early- whether it’s because they feel the need to have someone to provide for them or because they get pregnant early and have no choice. While the whole infrastructure of the school won’t have electricity, the solar lanterns benefit the school immensely. They give each individual student the ability to study at their home, instead of the school having to use a generator on nights before a big test. The school can then save their generators and money for emergencies.

Our project will have a long lasting impact. Hindo explains, “One solar lantern will serve a girl throughout her secondary school education. Helping or capacitating the girls in this situation will prevent and reduce girl’s vulnerability from teenage pregnancy and sexual harassment. Many girls will make it to college and after college, it will help boost a nation’s economy, increase life expectancy rate, provide room for healthy families and lavage gender equality.”

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