Lighting a Million Lives
In Pakistan, 44% of 190m population are being deprived of their right to basic infrastructure, inaction by the government is worsening the situation. Creating this tremendous opportunity into a business model, Ms. Farhan penetrated into the completely untapped renewable energy sector in the country with the launch of Buksh Foundation and Buksh Energy Pvt Ltd in 2009.
Along with achievements in the private sector, she launched the Lighting a Million Lives (LaML) project to target the rural off-grid areas using harmful energy sources. The project’s aim is to replace kerosene-based lighting with cleaner, more efficient and reliable solar lighting devices in poor un-electrified villages of Pakistan by a solar charging station with 50 solar lanterns operated by a young female entrepreneur (“The Light Lady”) along with the development of a male technical entrepreneur, engaging entire community towards ownership of project. http://bukshfoundation.org/bf/images/Files_/laml-concept-paper-.pdf
The initiative launched by Ms. Farhan seeks to empower females in rural communities and engaging them towards economic justice. With the provision of clean energy and replacement of harmful kerosene oil and firewood, the underserved communities are provided with access to life. Additionally, in the community mobilisation phase of the project, Ms. Fiza has introduced an awareness campaign, which educates the community on health, education, environment and gender equality. Gender equality campaigns are important as one woman is selected in these male-dominated areas to lead the solar charging station and this needs to be accepted by the whole community for the model to run successfully, and therefore, is a crucial objective of the project.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
To date, Farhan has electrified 165 villages with the support of team and generous donors that include corporations, development agencies and her extensive international network. With the electrification, Ms Fiza has empowered one woman with a total of 165 female entrepreneurs being created. The entrepreneurs have been trained to advance their rights, their communities’ rights, and especially the rights of other women. By being accepted as breadwinners and as a leader of the solar charging station, other women in the community have also started engaging in economic activities, such as clothes stitching which they can carry out during the night with the help of the solar lanterns. Moreover, these female entrepreneurs are educated on gender equality along with the household men and through awareness campaigns Farhan concentrates on the provision of clean energy but also promote health and education rights, especially for girls.
Lighting a Million Lives: $907,500 (165 villages)
The project addresses multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are especially crucial in Pakistan through a single turnkey model:
• Goal 1 SDG: Poverty alleviation through provision of clean energy
• Goal 5 SDG: Gender equality with focus on economically disadvantaged women
• Goal 7 SDG: Access to clean, reliable, affordable energy
• Goal 8 SDG: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
• Goal 10: Combat climate change through provision of clean energy
Additionally, being the first organisation to tackle the energy crisis in 2009, Buksh Foundation has become a pioneer in rural off-grid electrification in the country and provides an impact-ful combination of technology, training, and empowerment.
With 165 villages electrified all over Pakistan and especially in extremism prone areas, such as Baluchistan and the northern province of KPK, the impact has been great. One village comprises of 50 households with an average of 5-7 members in each house giving a total of 250-300 individuals per village. With following impact for 50,000 individuals:
• Increase in productivity hours by 6-8 hours
• 10% increase in income generation
• Unleashing economic potential of women and girls. There has been a 30% increase in enrolment of girls as women are accepted as breadwinners in the community
• Providing longer studying hours for children as lanterns are used in double-shift schools at night.
• Improved healthcare through awareness campaigns and
• Generation of environmental benefits by replacing kerosene oil with cleaner, more reliable energy access. Each solar lantern replaces about 500-600 liters of kerosene during its 10-year lifespan, mitigating use of about 1.5 tons of Carbon dioxide.
• Funding: For this we aim to catalyze investment from diverse donors by providing individual incentives.
• Political rivalries and instabilities- Pakistan has been midst of unstable political conditions.
• Culture barriers- We are promoting gender equality in rather conservative areas by reducing cultural biases with local partners.
• Gender inequalities- Most of the areas are male dominated where women are suppressed. We focus on sustainable economic inclusion for these women.
• Global perception of Pakistan- The terrorist activities have created negative global perception of the country. Which causes hindrances while promoting projects and applying for funds from donors. Foundation is trying to change this perception globally on various platforms.
• Conservative Approach to development: The project defies conservative norms of development / culture by engaging women towards empowerment and leadership both within the organization and within the organizations.
CHALLENGES FACED BY THE DONOR
For the grant based project, Lighting a Million Lives, we had funder support, incl. dev agencies and corporations. Implementation was efficient and timely. A challenge funders face is that the rural off-grid villages, which are poor, that we target are not always safe. We have electrified villages in north Pakistan - Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Baluchistan, which are extremism-prone and need support and intervention. Challenges have been minimised by giving preference to areas selected by the funders so they can visit the project and the community. With USAid, we used security forces to ensure safety. A multifold positive impact was generated and the challenges are minimal and succeed in the cost/benefit analysis.
Whenever you set a goal, there are always challenges in achieving them. The most important lesson I have learnt is not to undermine myself as a woman, even in a male-dominated society as Pakistan. Women are suppressed through a culture of silence and denial in communities and societies, and are expected to endure it. I, myself faced resilience towards leadership in sectors conventionally led by men where women are confined in domesticated roles.
Considering the state of mind and the examples around me, I realized that this was a challenge and I had to do whatever it requires to overcome it. With consistent efforts and undying passion I have been able to achieve my goals. I have realized that failure is a part of life and the real barrier to your achievements is the self-placed fear. I have learnt through my experiences and achievements that “Being a women is more of a strength rather than a weakness only if you realize it and know how to use it”.
DONATION AMOUNT (USD)
WHY IS THIS BRAVE PHILANTHROPY
We established Buksh Foundation to empower human lives and create a society in which every individual has an equal opportunity to utilize their full potential. Women comprise 50% of Pakistan’s population of 190 million and are the world’s fastest-growing economic force. Unfortunately, women are neglected and the potential of half of our economy is being wasted. Therefore, Buksh Foundation specifically targets economic advancement of women, with a special focus on young girls (youth), disabled women, midwives, single mothers and those in extreme poverty. When we empower a woman and she becomes a breadwinner, the family and community is empowered to change as well. We remove the set cultural biases and change the dynamics.