Solar Home Systems Power the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence
In Nigeria, providing reliable power to gender-based violence centers helps providers respond to an increase in cases due to COVID-19 lockdown.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, experts working in the field of gender-based violence (GBV) mitigation and response noted a significant rise in domestic violence and an increased vulnerability to other forms of GBV including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, financial disempowerment, and early marriage. These vulnerabilities stem from the stresses related to the pandemic, as well as global lockdowns which have resulted in restricted movement and limited access to resources. These issues were exacerbated in developing countries, where persistent electricity shortages strain health care resources and hinder GBV prevention efforts.
In Nigeria’s Lagos State, increased reports of sexual and domestic violence inundated GBV response centers, such as the Cece Yara Foundation and Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) Rape Crisis Centre. Maintaining services at these facilities became essential to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of GBV victims and survivors during the lockdown.
Located in the center of Lagos, the Cece Yara Foundation hosts Nigeria’s first 24-hour toll-free child helpline, providing round-the-clock access to trained staff who help children and young people report and prevent child sexual abuse, find resources, or simply listen. Just a few kilometers south, the WARIF Centre is the only facility in Lagos that provides services to assault survivors in a state of over 22 million people.
To ensure these life-saving services remained uninterrupted, both facilities required a reliable power supply.
“Power Africa is committed to advancing gender equality and female empowerment. Finding innovative ways for the energy sector to combat gender-based violence is an important piece of that commitment,” explained Narlene Egu, Energy Advisor, Economic Growth and Environment Office, USAID/Nigeria. “At the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, we saw an immediate need to provide healthcare and gender-based violence centers with reliable power and knew that we were in a unique position to respond quickly and bring together stakeholder resources to meet this need. By electrifying gender-based violence centers we can expand access to life saving resources.”
To keep these centers operating in Nigeria’s unpredictable electricity environment, Power Africa worked with two private sector companies — ENGIE Energy Access, a Power Africa partner, and Greenlight Planet — to supply 110 solar home system (SHS) units for use in GBV prevention centers, and for essential workers to use at home.
“Given that the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence has increased in these trying times, it seems imperative and mission-aligned to support facilities and programs that help people that have experienced gender-based violence,” explained Chioma Agogo, Greenlight Planet General Manager, West Africa Partnerships.
Bankole Cardoso, Country Director at ENGIE Energy Access Nigeria, shared, “With our ReadyPay SolarPower, ENGIE Energy Access is committed to improving livelihoods through quality solar home systems and donating solar home systems is one way to show our support to gender-based violence centers. It is vital these centers continue operating during times like these. ”
The 10–25-watt systems are allowing recipients to extend their working hours, provide uninterrupted essential services and treatments, and make telecommunications services more accessible. For GBV centers, the lighting is not only allowing the centers to keep their doors open longer each day, but also offering patients a more comfortable environment while at the center.
Since receiving the donation, a Cece Yara Child Helpline Counselor, explained, “I do not have to worry about power supply when I am at home receiving calls. With the solar lamp, I can always recharge my Child Helpline phone.” With the SHS unit, the counselor has access to uninterrupted power to ensure that the Cece Yara 24-hour toll-free Child Helpline remains accessible for anyone, children or adults.
The WARIF Centre Manager, Dr. Aniekan Makanjuola, shared, “Each day at the center I provide medical and forensic services to survivors, that means services given must be prompt, efficient, and thorough. This requires a 24-hour constant supply of electricity. The solar power solution has made this possible and enabled uninterrupted delivery of services to survivors, who have appreciated these services through reviews we received.”
By equipping essential workers with electricity through SHS units, workers can power mobile devices to ensure access to timely information; allocate more budget to medical supplies, food, and sanitation by alleviating the financial burden of paying for energy; and improve living conditions for stay-home orders in defense against COVID-19. For GBV centers, these SHS units will ensure that their ability to deliver critical services is not hampered by unreliable power supply.