Lighting the Way to Women’s Economic Empowerment in Rural Zambia

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Teresa inside her shop in Chadiza from which she sells, amongst others, pay-as-you-go solar home systems. Photo: USAID Southern Africa Energy Program

Teresa lives in Chadiza, a small town in Zambia’s Eastern Province, where she runs a one-stop-shop that offers not only drinks, food, and toothpaste, but also pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) solar home systems (SHS).

Through her business savvy and an opportunity provided by SHS company, VITALITE, Teresa has significantly improved her own economic well-being, as well as that of her community.

In Zambia, where only four percent of the rural population has access to electricity, private sector SHS companies are expanding their reach to accelerate delivery of off-grid connections. The USAID Southern Africa Energy Program (SAEP), a Power Africa initiative, supports SHS companies by training employees to improve solar system sales and increase connections.

In addition to sales training, VITALITE requested SAEP’s support to promote gender equality in its operations. SAEP conducted a gender mainstreaming workshop in Lusaka, Zambia, in April 2019 for VITALITE’s HR, sales, and marketing teams on how to integrate gender into their work and how to attract more women to become sales agents, which could create economic opportunities, especially for women in rural areas. SAEP and VITALITE then visited rural communities like Chadiza to meet with customers and sales agents. This is where Teresa’s potential for growth came to light.

Teresa was a PAYGO client who became frustrated with the long distances and time wasted traveling to purchase top-ups for her SHS. She wanted to do her own top-ups, and to sell to her neighbors and one-stop-shop clients. She wanted to become a sales agent.

VITALITE was so impressed by her enthusiasm and keen eye for business that they hired her as an SHS sales agent in Chadiza.

“Working with our teams here at VITALITE to create an environment in which everyone can feel emotionally and physically safe, that they are treated with fairness and in which they have an equal opportunity to have a positive impact on the communities we serve, is a subject about which I am deeply passionate,” Russell Lyseight, General Manager, VITALITE Zambia.

Today, Teresa runs her house, shop, and next-door tavern on an SHS from VITALITE. Plus, as a VITALITE sales rep, she is now a literal source of light for her community.

Teresa is a role model and a prime example of women as key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions.

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Teresa runs her house, shop, and next-door tavern on an SHS from VITALITE. Photo: USAID Southern Africa Energy Program

Other interesting facts about Teresa

She likes the SHS so much that she bought and is paying for a system for her child and grandchildren. “They [grandchildren] were so excited when they heard they were getting solar. Now they can study at night without worrying.”

Teresa credits her success as a sales agent to the network she gained through distributing mosquito nets as a volunteer for a local health initiative combating malaria. She believes volunteering helped her earn trust among the community and is happy to use that to help provide electricity via SHS products.

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