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“Now I know that I can do things on my own.” – Dines’ story

A single mother whose husband left her when their children were still young, Dines Msampha, 42, has seen her monthly income more than double since she was trained as a Solar Mama. Not only does she receive a salary for her role maintaining the solar systems she's helped install in the community, but she's also been able to boost production for her donut-making business by being able to work outside of daylight hours.

Dines Msampha, solar mama VSO/Peter Caton

Dines Msampha, 42, has seen her monthly income more than double since she was trained as a solar engineer

"People came and they wanted to select women to go for training. So, they called a meeting of the village and they came to select women. 

I had never left Malawi before. The furthest I had travelled before was about 190km from Lilongwe.

A woman engineer

Growing up I wanted to be a doctor, or an accountant, but we didn’t have the money for school fees. I was excited to do the course, because I had never seen women being solar engineers. I was excited to think that a woman like me could be an engineer. And when I got to India I was happy to see a lot of women in the offices and workplaces.

When I got to India I was surprised to learn that we would be learning to build circuit boards and do the electrical wiring of the solar lamps ourselves by hand. I thought they would be assembled by machines.

I learned how to build solar lanterns, and how to fix them. I learned how to maintain the home solar systems. If we have the parts, we can combine them together.

I can do things on my own

When I returned to Malawi everyone was very happy.  I don’t understand why other women were scared to do things like this. Now I know that I can do things on my own. 

My perspective changed a lot. My husband divorced me when my last-born was still a baby. I am paying secondary school fees for my two older children. I hope they will be able to finish school. I have worked hard and I am very proud of myself. I know I can do more.

Now that we have solar at home, I use the light to cook doughnuts and sweet potatoes in the evenings for sale at the market.

Before, my profits from the business were about 5-7,000 a month. Now that’s about 12,000. In addition I have the Solar Mama salary which is 10,000 a month. It’s made a big difference."

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