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Women-Founded Cooperative Leads Solar Energy Innovation in Kenya

Published 07/02/2024 by Global Communities

WISEe members smiling and showing their uniforms.

By Maryangela Amendola

One phone call changed Jacinta’s future. In 2015, a college friend told her about a renewable solar energy training program provided by Arizona University and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She left her career as an engineer and aviation teacher in Mombasa County, Kenya, to pursue the opportunity.

Jacinta and the five women in her class completed the solar training program in 2016. Upon graduation, they recognized the challenges of working in a male-dominated field. Rather than get discouraged, they decided to stick together and form a cooperative.

WISEe member displaying PV system.

In 2017, the group formalized the Women in Sustainable Energy & Entrepreneurship (WISEe) worker cooperative. WISEe provides members with solar photovoltaic (PV) system installation and entrepreneurship training. Additionally, they learn about saving and credit groups and receive assistance from the county cooperative office.

WISEe’s first project was to install solar energy boxes in schools. We Share Solar, an American non-governmental organization, provided Jacinta and her colleagues with solar panels. The cooperative installed solar products in 10 schools not scheduled to be connected to the national power grid.

Through the partnership with Global Communities, WISEe has seen a tremendous growth in our business structures and how we conduct services.

Jacinta, WISEe member

Wanting to provide members with additional benefits and services, WISEe engaged with Global Communities’ Cooperative Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy and Research (CLEAR) Program, funded through USAID’s Cooperative Development Program.  The objective of establishing a CLEAR membership was to strengthen the business acumen and performance of cooperative businesses while integrating and empowering youth and women within the cooperative’s structure. WISEe members received training on cooperative development including capacity building, financial management, governance and marketing. WISEe is working to update its strategic business plan with support from Global Communities to benefit the cooperative’s expanding membership. As part of this initiative, WISEe has started a successful intervention with digital marketing and bulk messaging.

WISEe members pose with solar panels they are trained to install.

Since 2017, WISEe has grown from its 10 founding members to over 50 and has two employees. WISEe serves as a beacon of hope for aspiring women entrepreneurs. Their commitment to sustainability, community empowerment and innovative business practices has positioned them as a leader in the cooperative sector. Through strategic partnerships and a focus on continuous improvement, WISEe is dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment and society, paving the way for a brighter future for all.

Learn more about the impact of the WISEe Worker Cooperative and its partnership with Global Communities in the video below.

This success story is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Global Communities and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.