This Women's Day, tip your hat to Donatha Kabasinga, a Rwandan participant in the SNV 'Opportunities for Youth Employment' (OYE) programme.
Despite having only obtained basic education, Donatha decided to #beboldforchange and defy stereotypes. She has since earned the reputation of solar expert in her community. Donatha lives in the Ruhango district and is married to a farmer. She is a mother of two boys, eight and nine years old.
She dropped out of school at 16 due to an early pregnancy, but secured a job as community social worker in charge of savings and loan (SILC) groups for farmers with a development organisation. While managing the the farmer savings groups, Donatha heard about OYE. She enrolled to be trained as a solar systems technician and sales agent for Ignite Power, a company that partners with the SNV OYE project in Rwanda.
In September 2016, she participated in her first technical training. She learnt to market and install 10-watt solar systems. "During the training in Muhanga District, it looked virtually impossible, and I was not sure I would make it. But after my first installation, I gained confidence and began to really enjoy selling solar systems”, Donatha says.
Since then Donatha has installed 92 solar lamps and is quickly raising the bar. The district recommended four candidates for the Ignite Power training last year and Donatha has been the most active. “I love meeting and talking to people. I attend various community meetings and initiatives in villages in the district and tell residents about the solar benefits. If they express interest, I give them my contact details and they can call me when they are ready to have the system installed”. After these conversations, Donatha often receives phone calls from interested people. “I provide the list of names to the local Ignite office so that they can send me the systems needed. At this point the interested person knows that the system costs 130,000 Rwf (about €148), and is payable over a period of 24 months. If the payment is not completed, we are required to retrieve the system from the home,” she explains. The buyers pay 5,000 Rwf (about €6) per month through mobile banking over the two years, after which they fully own the system. The first month Donatha installed 24 systems and earned 61,800 Rwf (€70), or around 3,000 Rwf (about €4) per solar system after taxes.
Donatha has been able to combine her earnings to buy a sofa set and a calf for the family. Recently she has started hiring a male technician to help install the solar systems. “I am passionate about people and made the decision to transfer these installation skills to a fellow. This way I can finish the installation process faster, take on more work and grow my business."
Ignite Power representatives attest to Donatha’s hardworking nature and consider her a valuable asset. “She is one of the best in the province. We are planning to promote her to zone leader. In that capacity, she will coordinate sales in 4-5 district.” says Julius Mugisha, a representative of Ignite Power.
As a local role model Donatha recently was selected by the OYE project to attend a social media training. “Before the training I was only accustomed to regular cell phones, but now I have discovered the world of smartphones, which at first was intimidating. However, I am hoping that the use of social media will allow me to grow my business even further.”
Donatha is one of over 3500 youth trained in renewable energy in Rwanda under the local OYE project. The government of Rwanda has partnered with Ignite Power to provide small wattage solar solutions to 250,000 households by 2018 using market based solutions. Rwanda’s aim is to bring electricity to 70% of its off-grid households by 2018, up from 20% in 2014. The initiative in which Ignite Power has engaged OYE youth is a part of a scaled pilot that started in 2014.