By Anne Njathi and Davina Ngei and edited by Maureen Onyango and Linda Davis, Ph.D; originally published on wPOWER: Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables
Margaret Noor Tiren was born in the conflict-torn area of Mukutani, Baringo County, Kenya (about 300 kms northwest of Nairobi). Due to a lack of finances, Margaret was only able to achieve 5 years of formal education. Inter-clan conflicts led to the deaths of her two siblings, forcing her family to move to Marigat; a small town within the county. After years working as a casual labourer, Margaret opened a small kiosk (shop) to sell vegetables.
As a single mother and the sole breadwinner in her family, Margaret faced tough economic challenges. According to her, the proceeds from her kiosk were as low as 5,000 shillings/month (about $50). Margaret knew she needed to put in more hours at work to sell more vegetables and ultimately increase her profits. Unfortunately, lack of proper lighting and other financial constraints limited her ability to extend her operating hours. Her potential for growth was restricted, despite her industrious nature.
Margaret still vividly recalls the date, 22nd May 2017. She believes that this is the day her life took a positive turn. Using her meagre savings, Margaret invested in a solar home kit offered by Pawame. Pawame is an off-grid solar company based in Kenya that provides reliable and flexible pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar home systems to remote areas in Africa on a microfinance basis, making it affordable for everyone. Using the payment plan provided, Margaret deposited 3,000 shillings (about $30) and begun paying the remaining costs through affordable daily installments of 45 shillings (about $0.45) over an 18-month period.
The Pawame Solar Home Kit includes a 10-watt solar panel, 3000mAh battery box, four high efficiency LED lamps, a remote control, a 4-in-1 phone charging cable, a radio (with a solar rechargeable battery) and a solar rechargeable torch.
Today, a year after installing the kit in her shop, Margaret feels transformed. She has taken advantage of the solar kit to extend her business hours; enjoying 2–3 hours of additional light each evening. She has also enhanced her business portfolio at the vegetable shop, offering charging services for customer mobile phones for a small fee. As a result of this, her monthly income has risen by nearly 50%, allowing her to invest more in her family and her business.
The extra income has also allowed her to install a water tank, and she dispenses water to her community at a fee. This is a convenient service in a drought prone area like Marigat.
As Margaret maintained consistent payment of her Pawame solar home kit, she has qualified for an upgrade to a Pawame solar home TV kit.
The Pawame Solar Home TV Kit includes a 35-watt solar panel, 10500mAh battery box, four high efficiency LED lamps, a remote control, a 24-inch LED TV, an antennae, a Y-Splitter cable, a 4-in-1 mobile phone charger, a radio (with a solar rechargeable battery) and a solar rechargeable torch.
With this upgrade, Margaret has extended her kiosk to accommodate a TV room and is in the process of installing the Pawame TV to air soccer matches. She is looking forward to the soccer World Cup games in June and July 2018, where she intends to charge viewing fees of 50 shillings ($0.50) per person, per match. She also plans to sell soft drinks and refreshments to the (hopefully) thirsty and zealous soccer crowds; providing yet another additional income stream for her.
Margaret is now a key referral customer for Pawame and has already introduced six clients to the solar energy provider.
“I love Pawame and it has been one of the most treasured possessions I’ve ever had. It has changed my life and [that of] my relatives. I am looking forward to owning other products through [the] affordable and flexible repayment plan by Pawame,” says Margaret Tiren.
Stories such as Margaret’s are vital in inspiring women entrepreneurs who are facing challenges that hinder their social and economic growth. Margaret’s life is no longer constrained by the poverty and lack of options that she once experienced. Her productive use of energy means that she now has the finances to grow her business as well as the ability to determine her working hours. Her growth over the last year has buoyed her and she’s excited to see what her future holds.
This is a success story that makes our partners, Pawame, proud of their focus on developing affordable solar energy solutions to help electrify the 150 million homes in Sub-Saharan Africa that lack access to modern energy.
“Universal energy remains a long-term aspiration rather than a short-term reality since it is still a scarce commodity in Africa. We have just started the journey. The potential for Pawame to impact lives is significant, and we have already touched the lives of more than 20,000 people in Kenya by giving them access not only to lighting, but to other life enhancing services.” Alexandre Allegue, Chairman and Co-Founder of Pawame.
Margaret Tiren’s inspirational story showcases the impact that solar energy can have in remote communities and on people’s lives, increasing their income and dignity in the process.