‘Green Girls Project’ empowers Cameroon women with skills in renewable energy
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An NGO called the “Green Girls Project” has been organising training workshops all over Cameroon since October 2016 to teach teenage girls how to make biogas, a renewable energy created by using biodigesters to ferment organic material. The goal is to teach these girls new skills and develop equality between men and women.
The "Green Girls Project" NGO was created in August 2016 by Monique Ntumngia, a 26-year-old Cameroonian lawyer, with support from the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program, a programme run through the State Department of the United States that helps African women develop their own projects.
"Women often have fewer opportunities to develop their skills”
The goal is to train young women, especially those from rural areas, to transform waste into biogas, a renewable energy made from carbon dioxide and methane. I decided to focus on women because they often have fewer opportunities to develop skills, especially because they often get married at a young age. One of my aims is to improve equality between men and women.
Ahead of our trainings, we always contact local schools because our programme is for female students who are at least 14. However, teenage girls who have dropped out of school after getting married or becoming pregnant, for example, can also participate.
We usually have about eight staff members on the ground for each training workshop. We have technical coordinators and engineers who specialise in renewable energy. We explain to the girls how to make waste useful, such as pig and chicken droppings, banana peels and even human excrement.
Next, we build biodigesters together. [Organic material and waste is put in the biodigester, where it decomposes with the help of microorganisms (bacteria) and forms biogas]. Not everything decomposes at the same rate so the length of the training depends on the waste that we find in each community. Four days is the minimum.
"After the training, these young women are able to use a biodigester and share what they've learnt"
Since October, we’ve trained 623 young women in 23 different communities across Cameroon. After the training, our students are able to use biodigesters and to share what they've learnt with their community.
This training helps shift mindsets by making young women realise that they are capable of doing certain things, even if they haven’t gone to school. It’s very encouraging for them. Now, many of them want to work in the renewable energy sector.
"These biodigesters help families to save both time and money”
We’ve also installed about 70 biodigesters in homes across Cameroon. More than 3,000 households use the biogas that is produced to cook and heat their homes. That helps them save money. In Douala, a gas cylinder costs 6,800 francs CFA [equivalent to €10.37] and it is even more expensive in rural areas. This saves time for the women of the household, as they don’t have to go fetch firewood to heat their homes, which means it is also beneficial for the environment.
Ntumngia wants to keep training young women in other regions across the country. She also hopes to one day teach the students how to store the biogas that is produced in containers so that they can resell it. She also wants to teach these young women about other types of renewable energy, such as solar energy.
For now, donations keep Green Girls Project afloat. The project is also financed in part through the sale of biodigesters to families who want their own device installed at home.
In Cameroon, only 53.7% of the population had access to electricity in 2012, according to the International Energy Agency. Power cuts are common.
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