Kelsey Schrock is the Project and Impact Manager in Nicaragua for GRID Alternatives. She's been involved in many Women in Solar Nicaragua projects and reflected on the progress she's seen over the years.
In 2015, GRID Alternatives’ International Program hosted its first Women in Solar project in Nicaragua. This initiative began in order to provide an opportunity for local women to get hands-on training while installing solar in their rural communities. During the week-long installation, women from different parts of the country and different educational backgrounds are able to bond through shared meals and daily reflections, promoting personal and professional growth.
Since then, the International Program has hosted 11 Women in Solar projects in Nicaragua and Nepal, most recently in January 2020 in Nicaragua. Karolina Chavarria Fajardo was one of the ten women who participated in the 2020 Women in Solar project at an off-grid school.
“This experience was unforgettable, it surpassed all my expectations. I was impacted greatly by the gratitude of the community. It was very fulfilling and inspired me to continue learning about solar energy to be able to help more people with limited economic resources.”
Some of the former Women in Solar Nicaragua participants have even gone on to do an internship with GRID Alternatives in Nicaragua. Two of those women were then hired by GRID as full-time solar technicians. One of these women, Karelia Tercero, reflected on her experience in the Women in Solar program back in 2015:
“This opportunity to volunteer was very special and happened at the perfect moment because I didn't know what I was doing after graduation. I knew that I should look for a job, but my biggest fear was that I didn’t have the practical hands-on experience necessary to apply the theory that I learned. Volunteering with GRID was an experience of many firsts...and [most importantly] the first time I got to participate in a complete solar installation from start to finish.”
Beyond professional opportunities, many women speak to the ripple effect of breaking gender norms in societies where there are very few opportunities for women to work outside of their homes, nevermind the renewable energy industry. For community members to see women wearing hard hats, getting on the roof, using power tools, and successfully installing solar is, as one of the participants put it, “revolutionary.”
“At first, villagers were asking, ‘Why are these girls here?’ Men were saying, ‘It’s difficult, even for us! Boys can’t even do such work, how can these girls do it?’ We heard such things. But we did it!” - Manju Raut, Women in Solar Nepal participant in 2019
“I’m inspired by seeing these girls. I too want to learn like them.” - Laxmi Budha, local resident of the Women in Solar project community in Nepal
Over the years we’ve seen the importance of women seeing other women managing and installing a solar project from start to finish. GRID Alternatives is one of the few organizations pushing against the mainstream gender roles in the solar industry, giving women the power to put on a hard hat and get the hands-on experience that will jumpstart their careers. The hope is that this ripple effect will eventually reach the entire industry and society as a whole. It starts out as a whisper ‘Wow, look at her,’ and slowly grows into a shout ‘If she can, I can too.’
Please continue to support our Women in Solar work by making a donation to our International Program.