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Author Izzy Clark
Women for Women International - UK
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Solar Sisters

Women for Women International – Nigeria Graduates win Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Awards

Mercy Paul and Salamatu Yusuf, two Women for Women International programme graduates in Nigeria, have been recognised for their outstanding achievements marketing and selling clean energy products in their communities in Plateau State.

The women were part of a recent partnership between Women for Women International and social enterprise Solar Sister, whose pioneering direct sales network aims to brings affordable clean energy to communities across Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda - whilst providing women with a steady income. Last year, Solar Sister provided specialised training in sustainable energy and entrepreneurship for 101 women enrolled in our 12-month programme in Nigeria. The women received start-up kits, marketing support and ongoing mentoring to establish their own businesses selling solar lamps and improved cook stoves.

Buki presenting a gift to Mercy
Buki Onyishi, Women for Women International - Nigeria Country Director, presenting a gift to Mercy Paul. Photo: Women for Women International

Leading the way in solar lamp sales 

At a ceremony in Abuja earlier this month, Mercy was named as Solar Sister’s best-performing entrepreneur in the Northern Zone region, whilst Salamatu took third place. It was a close competition, with Mercy generating 408,350 Nigerian Naira (£795) in total sales, compared to Salamatu’s 404,800 Naira (£788). 

We’re incredibly proud that our Women for Women International graduates took two of the top spots, after just recently getting started in their businesses. Overall winner Mercy was overjoyed to win a motorbike and mobile phone, which will help her grow her business further, and access more remote rural communities.

The annual awards ceremony brought together Solar Sister’s most successful entrepreneurs from other Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory. Unlike Mercy and Salamatu, the majority came from cities and major towns - none of them operated in rural villages like Ampang-West and Pushit, where Mercy and Salamatu sell their solar lamps. This makes our graduates’ achievements all the more remarkable.


Since 2000, Women for Women International – Nigeria has served more than 60,000 women through our year-long programme in Enugu and Plateau states.

Fuelling women's empowerment, stamping out disease and climate change

In the remote rural communities where we work in north-central Nigeria, only 4% of girls finish secondary school and social norms limit women’s access to paid work: just 40% participate in the workforce, compared to 75% of men. Clean energy enterprises provide marginalised women with economic and leadership opportunities that are otherwise extremely scarce, and offer pathways towards self-sufficiency.

They also have a powerful ripple effect that goes beyond financial gains, as women use their social connections and leadership roles to spread knowledge about the wide-ranging benefits of clean energy, and improve uptake of these simple but life-changing technologies.

  • Improved health: Solar lamps and clean cookstoves replace kerosene and open-fire cooking – both of which produce deadly toxic fumes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks indoor air pollution as one of the worst health risks facing the poor. Globally, it kills nearly two million people annually. In Africa, 500,000 children under five die each year from pneumonia attributable to household pollution.

  • Environmental benefits: Clean cookstoves reduce fuel use by 30-60%, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions and reducing deforestation and climate change.

  • Family prosperity: Household energy savings mean that more money can be reinvested in nutrition, education, and health – essential for breaking cycles of poverty.

  • Women’s empowerment: Women, who are traditionally responsible for gathering fuel, also save valuable time – allowing them to participate in other activities and be more economically productive.

Mercy's interview with AIT, a local TV station. Photo: Women for Women International

Lighting up the future

Mercy and Salamatu’s successes highlight the potential of clean energy technologies to provide lucrative and sustainable economic opportunities for marginalised women, whilst addressing critical problems that impact the communities where we work in Nigeria.

Others hope to follow in their footsteps, as they continue to steadily grow their enterprises.

Zara Ubah Yusuf, another programme participant who took part in the Solar Sister training and graduated from our programme in December, said:

“Before Women for Women International, I lived in purdah (a traditional cultural practice in northern Nigeria, where women must remain secluded in their homes). I was totally dependent on my husband but life was not easy for us. Joining the programme has opened up an avenue for a steady stream of income, as I am now gainfully employed and a Solar Sister Entrepreneur. Thank you Women for Women International.”

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