SolarBuddy - powering change for young Indigenous girls

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For Australian not-for-profit organisation SolarBuddy, this year’s International Day of the Girl will shine the spotlight on energy poverty in Australia and how the issue impacts young women.

Energy poverty affects almost 500,000 people in Australia, predominately First Nations people in rural and remote communities, many of whom are young girls.

As part of International Day of the Girl 2021, SolarBuddy is joining its long-standing strategic partner FCM Meetings & Events and Indigenous education organisation Yalari, to take part in the second annual It’s Now Girl virtual-event.

case study - solarbuddy - building solar light

The tripartite is throwing its weight behind this all-important event, Monday 11 October, to champion positive change across a range of educational and social issues for young women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

General Manager of SolarBuddy, Billie Murphy, said SolarBuddy’s participation in It’s Now Girl - Tomorrow’s Generation, Today, was about raising awareness of energy poverty and how the issue was crippling many regional and remote Indigenous communities in Australia.

“Energy poverty poses a serious challenge for young women living in communities that are affected by this issue,” Billie said. “From a family, social, safety and educational perspective.”

“I have been to some remote Indigenous communities that are doing it tougher than villages in third world countries. While many of these communities are on the grid and can access power supply, families can’t always afford to have the electricity on. This means no power for cooking, homework for children or safety.

“There are no streetlights in these communities, there are no lights for sporting fields or public spaces for people to congregate at night-time.”

Billie will appear alongside Michelle Degenhardt from the Flight Centre Foundation and Ruth Lee, from The Origin Energy Foundation, on a guest panel for this year’s It’s Now Girl to discuss issues such as energy poverty, educational outcomes and social equality for young women.

SolarBuddy - 3 girls holding solar project

Part of the discussion will focus on resolving the challenges the next generation of young women face and how individuals and corporate Australia can help communities overcome gender-based obstacles, many of which are generational.

Billie believes the panel discussion will help delegates understand how serious and widespread energy poverty is in Australia and encourage people to get involved for positive change. People can show their support by making a donation, sponsorship or getting involved with a program or organisation working to improve the educational pathways for young Indigenous women.

One of the programs that has been specifically designed to tackle energy poverty in remote Indigenous communities is SolarBuddy’s Illuminating Communities. The Indigenous education program involves children making solar lights for themselves and other young children around the world living with energy poverty. To date, the program has been highly successful in providing a sustainable power solution for children who go home from school to a house with no power – often for days on end. The hands-on light building session is facilitated locally in schools and can be sponsored by businesses or individuals.

Since 2016, children around the world have been benefitting from SolarBuddy’s ingenious solar powered lights, including 330 young girls in Vanuatu, who received their own lights following the first It’s Now Girl event in 2020. SolarBuddy and FCM Meetings & Events raised $10,000 from ticket sales from the 2020 event, which paid for the technology and the distribution of the lights to remote Vanuatu communities.

Billie said the feedback from last year’s donation to young women in Vanuatu had been truly heart-warming.

At home we used to use a torch for light and sometimes we couldn’t afford new batteries so we would light candles in our house. My two brothers and I would struggle to do our homework after chores because it was too dark, and we couldn’t all use the same light. Now we have a solar light each, we always have light. I feel better at night because I have my own light to take with me when I go to the toilet or help mum with work. Thank you for making night-time better. – Sally.

“Events such as It’s Now Girl are so important for people to learn about the critical issues affecting our communities and our young people. They provide an important forum and source of information for those that want to make a difference,” Billie said.

Register for the 2021 It’s Now Girl – Tomorrow’s Generation, Today event and show your support for the young women of the future.

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