The Solar Age Programme, run by Turkish NGO Imece Initiative, empowers vulnerable migrant and refugee women through professional training in solar engineering.
The ‘Solar Ladies’ are equipped with skills to build, install and maintain solar home systems and other technology, and also to build portable, solar-charged power banks. The power banks are designed for displaced people in camps and on migration roads.
These sessions are backed up by other support and training for the women taking part, including language lessons and education for their children. The programme aims to build the confidence and independence of women, with skills that can be used in their home country, in Turkey, or elsewhere.
The programme runs in the Turkish city of Izmir, where Imece Initiative has supported displaced people since 2015.
Training and paid work
Trainees take part in a six-week programme, based at Imece Initiative’s workshop and training space in Izmir. The course focuses on practical, hands-on, learning including basic electricity, electrical soldering and installation of home solar systems.
Earning opportunities for refugees and migrants are extremely limited in Turkey and elsewhere. But after completing the course, trainees are helped to carry out paid work assembling electronic products.
Imece also creates solar power banks that the association specially designed for migrant travellers. Easy to carry and with integrated charging cables, they come with lights and charge all types of phones through the mains and solar energy. The power banks have been distributed in Bosnian safe houses for migrants and refugees, and also to people displaced by the war in Ukraine.
Support for children
The engineering training offered through the Solar Age Programme also provides other services. These include education for the children of those taking part in the programme who struggle to access schooling due to their legal status.
Other elements of the programme range from Turkish language lessons to first aid training, mental health support and sessions helping women grow their own food at home. The course also helps women register their status with the government – although many face huge challenges in doing so.
Trainee Sandra Guylaine, a 28 year-old from Cameroon, says: “Soft jobs and soft trainings became the standard of what women can do. But this time, I found myself in a solar energy program…I felt like I could do it as a woman.”
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