Meet the Bangladeshi woman converting her village to solar power
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When she installed solar panels in her home, a Bangladeshi mother named Marjina Bagum changed life for her family. Now, her children have light to do their homework at night, her family has lower electricity bills and they feel both safer and more comfortable. Marjina has started a trend in her small village, Kulia, which is located in the southern part of the country-- now many of her neighbours are also investing in solar power.
Bangladesh is one of the countries most affected by global warming and climate change. As global water levels rise, the country is experiencing more and more flooding. Thousands of Bangladeshis have already become climate refugees. While most individual Bangladeshis can’t do anything to counter the rising water, a result of the thawing of ice at the north and south poles, many people are realizing the urgent need to take action against climate change.
While facing problems linked to global warming, the country is also trying to develop at the same time. The Bangladeshi government aims to install electricity in all households by 2021 with the help of the World Bank and a network of NGOs and businesses, both local and international.
It’s a hefty mission: Bangladesh’s population is 156,600,000 and 45% of those people don’t have access to electricity. About 15 million Bangladeshi people currently use solar power.
That’s the case of Marijna, who was the first in her village to discover this cheap and efficient way to equip her home using renewable energy… and, in so doing, made her daily life much easier.
"My children can do their homework in the evening now that we have light"
My village has access to electricity, but there are often cuts and it’s extremely expensive. One day, I went to visit my son-in-law, who lives in another village. I saw that he had a solar panel installed in his home.
I quickly became a fan of the device and saw how useful it would be to install one in my own home. I contacted an NGO called Adams. They came and did the installation and taught me how to use it. The initial installation did cost me a lot of money. I spent about 4000 takas (equivalent to about 48 euros) to install it so I pay about 630 takas (equivalent to about 7.50 euros) each month to pay it off. It produces about 40 watts of electricity when fully charged. Long term, I will save a lot of money.
I have five children – four girls and a boy. Before, they fought to use the only light we had at night. Now, they can do their homework at night because we have plenty of light. They have been getting better marks at school! Now that we can light up the entire house until midnight, I feel safer – it’s important for the girls. We can also charge our mobile phones. And none of these actions are hurting the planet.
Marjina’s neighbour, shown here, poses in front of the solar panel that she installed after she learned about the device. Photo by Sharmishtha Roy.
People in the village call me a pioneer. It’s true that I was the first person here to get a solar panel. In fact, no one else here had even seen one before – our village is small and quite isolated. So I explained to everyone the advantages in using solar power. I convinced quite a few people of its utility. Now, several families have installed them – and so has a local grocery store.
This solar panel is being installed in Marjina’s village, Kulia. Photo by Sharmishtha Roy.
Another advantage of using solar panels is that we can’t always count on electricity in Kulia due to the frequent power cuts. That said, I never ended my contract with the local electricity provider because my 40 watt solar panel doesn’t provide enough power to run everything in my home, especially because it depends on how much sun we get. But my electricity bill is cheaper. As soon as I can, I want to save more on my bill by investing in another solar panel.
Adams is not the only NGO that is trying to develop the use of solar power in Bangladesh. Grameen Shakti, another NGO, reports having installed solar panels in more than 1.5 million households in rural areas.
This initiative was uncovered by our team for France 24’s “Observers vs Climate change” project. If you know of an initiative near where you live that’s been set up to fight climate change, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at email@example.com