Saturday Feb 04, 2023

Solar power helps Indian women make light work of cotton spinning – 台北時報


Uttar Pradesh has distributed solar-powered spinning wheels to about
1,000 women annually since 2018, which the project organizers say allows women
to work with confidence, while giving them a bigger say in running their households

  • By Moushumi Basu / Thomson Reuters Foundation, MORADABAD, India

As a traditional cotton spinner working from home in her village in northern India, Anita Devi was long resigned to having sore hands, meager income and a constant struggle to make ends meet.

Devi’s life changed in 2019 when the mother of two received a solar-powered spinning wheel, or charkha, as part of a drive by the state of Uttar Pradesh to boost rural women’s work opportunities and incomes in an environmentally friendly manner.

The solar charkhas — which feature 12 spindles, double the number on her old wheel — are equipped with a motor and battery pack, and provided along with a 400 watt solar panel.

Photo: Bloomberg

Devi, 34, produces up to 1.5kg of cotton yarn daily using her solar charkha, up from 400g she spun with a traditional wheel, which has led to a more than fourfold increase in her monthly earnings — now at least 10,000 rupees (US$125.12) on average.

“With the additional income we can afford better nutrition, healthcare and even tuition for my children,” she said at her home in Phoolpur in Moradabad district.

She is one of about 4,000 women across villages in Uttar Pradesh — India’s most populous state and one of the poorest — who have been trained to use and provided with the solar charkhas in the past few years under the state government initiative.

As India seeks to use less planet-heating coal to generate electricity and raise its renewables capacity to 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, up from about 115GW, Uttar Pradesh is looking to solar energy to power businesses, homes and communities, with a growing focus on those that are not connected to the grid.

Since 2018, solar charkhas worth 50,000 rupees have been distributed to about 1,000 women annually in Uttar Pradesh for free by the state’s Khadi and Village Industries Board (UPKVIB).

Many women work at home, while others do so at production hubs in their villages which are run by local nonprofits.

Millions of people across India — mainly women from marginalized communities — do home-based textile work, but tend to go under the radar and miss out on minimum wage and benefits.

Navneet Sehgal, additional chief secretary at UPKVIB, said that persuading rural and “patriarchal” households to allow women to attend solar charkha training had proved a challenge initially — but the project was thriving after a slow start.

“It is so satisfying to see their numbers grow — on how they are working with confidence, enjoying more self-esteem and a bigger say in running their households,” he added.

The project in Uttar Pradesh followed a separate nationwide 2018 scheme nationwide project, “Mission Solar Charkha,” with the aim of providing the wheels to create jobs for up to 100,000 people — from spinners to stitchers — in 50 areas or “clusters” across India.

In Uttar Pradesh’s independent program, the solar charkhas are distributed through several grassroots nonprofits.

One of them, Avad Yuva Kalyan Gramodyog Sansthan, also pays the women for the yarn they provide and has it woven into khadi — a traditional handspun fabric — by other female workers in its network before the items are finished off and then sold on.



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