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The E-Cube

An energy, enterprise and empowerment Hub for rural women in Bundelkhand, India

Photo of Kanika Verma
18 21

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

People in rural India have been “dis-emPowered”. They have lost control over depleting resources and cannot tap alternative sources of energy. Their basic needs remain unmet and growing aspirations unfulfilled. Women and children carry the burden of this poverty of choice - deprived of benefits that could accrue from improved access to energy and greater influence within the village economy.
Our solution, “The E-Cube” – Energy, Enterprise and Empowerment Hub for Rural Women, combines the potential of technology with institutional processes to create a service delivery mechanism that brings clean, green energy to people’s doorsteps. In doing so, TARA intends to put control of a 21st century resource – renewable energy - in the hands of rural women, making them strong and self-reliant. They will, in turn, prioritize the well-being of their children, themselves and their families to realize new, environmentally benign, economic opportunities and radically transform the quality of life in Indian villages.
In the Bundelkhand region, one of the most power starved areas, it has been extremely difficult to find women engaging strongly in livelihood opportunities beyond either basic jobs or as a support to their husband. Here, most solutions designed for energy access still look at women as passive users. In this context, indirect economic benefits take their own course and in a lot of cases are cross-generational. Thus access to energy needs to be part of a broader economic empowerment strategy that simultaneously addresses the productive use of electricity and enables women to spend their extra time on becoming economically empowered.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Women are the target group of TARA’s proposed intervention. They are often the primary managers and users of energy in households. With an aim to empower rural women to be able to define and make choices for themselves & their children, the project’s approach includes:
• Creating technology-backed energy & enterprise hub owned & run by women, water-purification, clean energy & health diagnostic centers designed to include deep-rooted social processes (e.g. cow shed as a centre) & removing mobility barriers (through early learning centers for children)
• Empowering young girls & women by developing entrepreneurial, professional & life skills by making them ‘invest in themselves’ for economic & social development
• Addressing intersection between women empowerment, basic needs fulfillment and income enhancement by not only building capacities & hand-holding for the energy hub but also the renewable energy-powered local enterprises contributing to stable revenue for the women-led hub

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The ingeniousness of our solution lies in capitalizing upon the synergy between gender and energy to reshape development options available to rural communities. It is an example of social innovation as it seeks to fulfill the apparently conflicting objectives of economic viability (essential to sustainability& social inclusion) (essential for benefits to reach the marginalized segments, particularly women). This is done through an infrastructure development and capacity building model that combines resources from philanthropic sources, private investment and social capital.
The energy services model proposed by TARA is unique in that it recognizes the dual roles of people in village communities – as producers and consumers. It uses electricity to put money “into people’s pockets”; cash that can be used to pay for not just lighting but improved nutrition, health care, education, entertainment and other needs.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Society for Technology & Action for Rural Advancement (TARA) is an 'incubation engine' of the Development Alternatives Group which has been providing development solutions in India and elsewhere. Its mission is to build capacity, incubate business models and manage processes to create economic, social and environmental value on a large scale.

Website: www. http://tara.in

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

There isn’t one story, but hundreds that have inspired us to start this project. TARA has worked with women’s groups for over two decades on issues as basic as literacy to more advanced development needs such as a secure income, sanitation, housing and participation in local governance. The lack of access to energy has repeatedly been seen to be a major impediment to overall well-being. In this project, we see an epoch-defining opportunity to create 'prosperity' and take care of our 'planet'.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

TARA’s selected topic areas are “Prosperity” and “Planet”. Our Theory of Change places women at the centre of change processes. We envisage there being central actors in transformation of the communities. The process of change aims to address in an integrated manner, the challenges that arise from the lack of energy. Hence, an energy centric “technology and process based empowerment model” is proposed where conditions that promote gender equality, basic need fulfillment and economic empowerment are created. The underlying premise is that solidarity among women serves as the backbone of a ”constructive community” and their ability to effect change is strengthened when they become an integral part of the energy service delivery mechanism.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Stakeholders at several levels will be involved in implementation of the proposed project and monitoring its progress. TARA's decades of experience in this region have enabled it to form and engage with a strong institutional network of community groups. The involved groups and their roles are as follows:
a) Women in SHGs will:
- Form an energy committee to manage the energy hub and manage sales and distribution of electricity, cook stoves/fuel and water purification solutions. They will also monitor customer experience through the e-platform
b) Women in the federation will be:
- The owner of the assets and responsible for management of the clusters, ensuring payment collection and financial audits of SHGs
c) Village community, represented by a Panchayat subcommittee, will:
- Help contextualise and build the model for basic needs and capacity-building through participatory planning
d) New and local business owners will:
- Serve to validate the tarriff packages and energy demand

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Bundelkhand has always had an unforgiving climate and terrain, and is often drought-hit. Despite this, women, who are involved in agriculture and animal-rearing, have demonstrated themselves to be extremely resilient and resourceful, open to navigating various challenges. The community is also served by TARA's extensive network of community organisations, with 10,000 self-help groups in the area. The readiness of the local women to engage with these institutions will ensure project efficacy.

Geographic Focus

Bundelkhand, India, a region that spans parts of the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The project will require 18 to 24 months to implement and bring to a stage where women will be able to manage day to day operations on their own.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

18 comments

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Photo of Animesh Prakash
Team

This is a wonderful idea. Just wanted to share, that time and gain, it has been proved, that a lot of change can happen, through women's empowerment and entrepreneurship. All the best to you!

Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

Thank You so much Animesh Prakash for your kind words and showing an interest in our project.

Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

Yes, this is very very true. In Africa where I have been for like 20 years, it is such here - this is the common knowledge:

If you give any support to a Kenyan man, chances are 90% that he will squander the money, and spend a little corner of it to create some makeshift lookalike of what he promised to do.

If you give the same support to a Kenyan woman, 90% of the women actually do what they agreed to do, and in case they did not understand, you will see them make strides and effort to do what they promised to do.

One can only wonder why it is like that...

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