Currently Playing

From darkness to light

From darkness to light

KINYASINI, Tanzania, May 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As a single mother, Salama Husein Haja was low in the pecking order in her village in Tanzania and struggling to eke out a living for her family as a farmer.

But now she hopes to gain status and a stable income after being trained as a community solar engineer for a project bringing light to scores of rural villages where no homes are connected to electricity on the islands of Zanzibar.

Grandmothers and single mothers - many of whom have never learned to read or write - are among those being trained under the programme which they say could transform lives in their poor fishing and farming communities.

"We struggle a lot to get lighting," said Haja, 36, a vegetable farmer and mother of three children from a village on Unguja, the largest and most populated island in the Zanzibar archipelago.

"When you don't have electricity, you can't do many things like teaching children. It forces you to use a lamp. The smoke is harmful, the eyes and the chest are affected.

"When the electricity is there, it's better."

Life is challenging for women in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania made up of numerous islands where half the population lives below the poverty line.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016.

Many poorer and rural families also lack access to electricity, compounding the challenges they face.

The island region's entire energy grid depends on an underground cable connecting it to the mainland which was damaged in 2009, plunging it into darkness for three months.

Furthermore, only about half of houses in Zanzibar are connected to mains power, with many of the remainder forced to rely on polluting fuel lamps for light.

For more on this story click here.