RESILIENT CLIMATE SHEROES: RURAL WOMEN CREATING SUSTAINABILITY REVOLUTION IN SOUTH INDIA.

How do we create a level playing ground for women?

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We started our journey with Orora Global to find a powerful yet effective answer to that question. Clean energy emerged as an elegant one-stop solution.


Women - the bigger victims of climate change.

Recently rural communities that lack of access to energy are impacted by climate crisis. In early 2017, we identified such a district in the southern state of Tamilnadu, India — Trichy, Trichy was predominantly driven by agriculture and due to the climate changes, the rivers dried and the local families that relied on farming, struggled to make their ends meet. As many men moved to cities to find jobs, the domestic responsibilities including education of their children completely fell on women. Most women had to be caregivers for health issues rising from burning fossils. They also had no voice in the family’s decisions-making as they were economically dependent. Overall the villages were evolving as unequal, unsustainable communities.

It made perfect sense to take this problem of energy poverty and convert it into an 'entrepreneurial opportunity' for women to financially sustain themselves. In response, we set up Orora’s first rural Solar Production Unit in Trichy which was sponsored by IIT Madras Alumni Association of North America & Womentum. We recruited and trained 25 local women with no education background to produce, distribute and service solar solutions to 60 villages in and around Trichy.

Impact from our Solar Production Unit is beyond clean energy.

Since impact on women is central to Orora, we modeled the production unit in a way that local women could also earn without neglecting their domestic duties. We were surprised to see how much transformation our employees — the local women — had with an opportunity to learn and work with us.

Debtfree. Training on financial planning and saving helped all our employees to be debt free or stopped them from taking further loans giving them a peace of mind that they had not experienced before.

I had to visit a pawn shop every time I had to pay my son’s school fee, and I was never sure if I can pay on time. Yesterday, I paid the fees with my salary. For the first time it was stress-free.” - Bhuvaneswari, Orora Solar Engineer from Gunaseelam

Turned entrepreneurs. When uneducated women saw that they could learn physics and electronics, they developed a newfound confidence on doing new things! Many of our employees planned and set up small businesses.

“I saved and bought a sewing machine so that me and my daughter can offer tailoring services and create additional income for the family.” - Karpagavalli, Orora Solar Engineer.

Better health. The savings from salary is helping the families get timely medical help during illness. Beyond that, the work environment has positively impacted on the mental well being of our employees.  Women working at Orora have evolved as a support system for each other to deal with rough life that lacks opportunities or facilities. While at work, the women channel their energy constructively and the positive environment helps them to deal with their daily grind.

“My son has hormonal issues and gets very violent. I lost my husband. The break from home and opportunity to learn is what keeping me sane.” shares one of our employees.

Bringing clean energy into a community provides the necessary platform for innovative solutions in education, healthcare, telecom, water, and more, enabling the communities to be truly sustainable.

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Awards and recognition

For playing an active role in Sustainability Revolution in rural communities has brought us recognition locally and nationally.

  • We got accepted under Climate Reality Leadership Corps Fellowship program and were trained by US Vice-President and Nobel Laureate, Al Gore on what we can do as a global community to support the shift to clean, renewable energy and to reduce the impacts of climate change on our beautiful planet.

  • We received the "Innovative Leader Award" at the inaugural Clean Energy Leadership Institute’s emPower conference in Washington DC in October 2018.  Our recognition was towards building an original business model breaking the molds of clean energy norms, especially in tackling workforce and diversity issues.

  • We received “Corporate Citizen of the Year” award in Durham NC by American underground, the Startup Hub of the South and Google for Startups Tech Hub.

Our vision for 2019

We are motivated than ever before as we stride into the next year. Our goal is to bring community based solar solutions to impact 250,000 people without electricity. Orora’s three key focus areas for 2019 are:

  • Power up India including our efforts to continue making Trichy sustainable and bringing this model to more Indian communities.

  • Prepare and launch pilots in developing countries as the lack of reliable, clean energy is universal.

  • Catalyze product innovation for affordable clean energy for rural and suburban communities.

we need your support!

We are currently fundraising with Giving Tuesday to upgrade our Solar Production Unit to scale up and solar power 60 villages in India. Your 1 minute to vote can help us to reach our goals.  

Thank you for your support and involvement.


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CELEBRATING THE SPIRIT OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

As the world unites together for the Global Entrepreneurship Week (#GEW2018), we at Orora Global want to take a moment to recognize and celebrate some of our own unsung sheroes, who personify the spirit of an entrepreneur who dares to dream, questions the status quo and yet is accountable for all her responsibilities. We dedicate this blog post to 25 women in Orora Global’s first rural Solar Production Unit in Trichy, India.

A platform to grow.

When we started out, we were clear about two of our impact goals:

  1. make clean energy accessible and affordable for rural & suburban communities

  2. empower the local women with necessary skills to make them community leaders and change makers.

As we started engaging with these communities, it was blatantly apparent that the rural women were eager to learn and contribute. However they had their social constraints. When we had to decide on our Solar Production Unit, we chose to model it in such way that it catered to a rural woman, giving her a platform to grow.

Building the entrepreneurial spirit.

As we began our recruitment for the Solar Production Unit, we consciously prioritized single moms, women from families that did not have steady income, women who could not finish their schooling including those with special needs and brought together 25 women from villages around Trichy.
Our working hours gave them the flexibility to manage their household responsibilities so that they had one less thing to worry about while coming to work.

The solar training was designed in such a way that no prior background was required. We covered everything from basic physics to practical electronics to solar product manufacturing. For the first time the women saw their own true potential.

”Before the training, I assumed anything related to electricity is complex. If some device did not work, I would helplessly wait for the only electrician in the village to come and fix. Now I question:  how hard can it be? Recently I opened up the voltage stabilizer in my house and fixed it!”   - Kokila, who had to quit school after the 8th grade

Orora Global Solar Production Unit

The families and community around are starting to see the difference. When Vennila, who has hardly gone beyond her village, Manapalayam, fixed the wiring of a broken light at her home, her mother-in-law was brimming with pride. Such shifts in perception of true potential of rural women sets up an entire community in a growth path.

To further groom these grass root change makers, we trained the women on public speaking, spoken English, yoga and meditation.

what next?

Our first rural Solar Production Unit with 25 trained women is ready to roll. Our women have proactively enrolled their communities and have designed solar-powered community centers that will offer computer classes for rural children supporting 60 villages or 150,000 people in and around Trichy. They are committed to paying forward to help other women learn how to implement solar solutions, spreading the joy that they experienced.

Three cheers to these less-known, spirited entrepreneurs of the world.

‘BE THE WINDS OF CHANGE’

Our Trichy production center is now a tiny powerhouse for Orora in India, with our 25 wonderful solar engineers/ local entrepreneurs ready to produce and install solar products in unelectrified communities.

Orora Global is launching a fundraiser, Be The Winds of Change, to impact 250K people without electricity in Trichy and in other remote parts of the world. Reach us at savitha@ororaglobal.com to know more.