“A woman trained is a nation trained”: Eileen’s Story

“My earliest memory as a child of me watching a documentary. I saw a girl child suffering and I thought to myself: I want to help. Initially my dream was to be a psychologist as I wanted to understand people”.

Despite her young age and a long way to go, Eileen had known since she was a child that she wanted to be there for the others. It was more than a thought: it was an impulse, an inner push, something that couldn’t just be ignored or silenced. Still, she had to figure out how to convert this rough diamond into something tangible, which could be the very concretisation of her dream.

The breakthrough in Eileen’s journey came when she realised that renewable energy was the lowest common denominator and the most powerful tool to stimulate social and economic development, while preserving the environmental dimension. Her aspiration of alleviating human suffering was finally taking shape. After working hard in order to achieve a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, she undertook a master’s in renewable energy. But that wasn’t enough, as Eileen felt that she could do more to take the field. She started an internship and a volunteering period at CREEC (Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation, in Kampala, Uganda), making it to heading the solar and energy efficiency sections. From there, finally, she could make a difference, and once again, Eileen’s focus was on people, and how to put them in the position of being protagonists of change.

Thus, together with other like-minded change makers, she pioneered WREAU (Women Renewable Energy Association), a small and yet fast-growing reality with the aim of the aim of increasing women awareness and involvement in the renewable energy sector. The vision of WREAU is to close this gender-based gap in the women’s involvement in RE.

It’s quite ambitious, isn’t it?  And yet in has never been as crucial as today. As a matter of fact, we are not just talking about career and employment opportunities; there’s way more at stake. As Eileen states, “50% of Africa’s population does not have access to electricity; with an even higher rate with no access to clean cooking, this leaves a lot to be done. Women happen to do 90% of the cooking in Africa and face many of the dangers of fuel collection such as rape, snake bites, and so on. An increased access to electricity will in many ways improve the standard of living of families, improve incomes of these women, improve health conditions and the several other ripple effects that come with it”.

The energy transition takes the shape of a silent struggle fought worldwide; a struggle that happens in human lives, hearts and minds, before power plants, grids and distribution networks.  A struggle we can’t afford to lose. And the weapons of WREAU are well sharped and ready to be used: Mentorship, Capacity building, Decentralization, Partnerships, Male Engagement and Innovation*. What emerges from the official Ethos of WREAU is the human dimension, first and foremost. As she says, “One of my biggest aches has been the type of education system both formal and informally used, especially in Uganda. I am passionate about having holistic education that not only empowers one mentally but also spiritually, emotionally, financially and socially”.

It’s quite obvious why, at RES4Africa, we fell in love right away with Eileen’s initiative, when she applied to the first MGA “Young Talent of the Year” Award. WREAU fully encompasses one of the oldest and most classical adages in the world of sustainability:  give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

After fully deserving and winning the “Young Talent of the Year” Award, Eileen reflects upon the way in which the prize will help her boost WREAU: “We currently are self-funded, and this makes our level of access still very low. Thus with the MGA award we shall have the financial capacity to reach more women and skill more women in far-to-reach, rural areas”.

It’s quite clear that Eileen and WREAU want to be exactly where they are needed the most. And we couldn’t be any prouder and honoured to contribute.

*Official Ethos of WREAU.