Many Zambians live in rural areas in households headed by women and households in which one or more members are chronically ill with AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.
In 2006 in a bid to generate employment and income for rural women in the Mansa district, one of the most impoverished regions in Zambia, groups of women were selected to become Weza Pioneers. The Pioneers, many of whom were widows and orphans, were trained in the use of the Weza, a portable foot powered generator. Weza means “power” in Swahili, and through the use of human power (a foot pedal) the Weza generates sufficient electricity to charge small devices like lights, mobile phones and shavers. Lighting can secure family and community living areas and safeguard a baby’s birth. Rural mobile phone users – a fast growing market – need no longer walk kilometres to town for a charge. The Weza can also jump-start stalled vehicles.
Working with the Visionary Skills Training Centre in Mansa and with a grant from a Swiss foundation, we were able to provide 30 Weza generators and accessories as well as ten wind-up solar-powered lanterns for women’s groups in Mansa. The project demonstrated the ability of groups of Weza Pioneers to generate income through sale of power to clients needing to charge small appliances, in particular, mobile phones.