International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is helping India’s Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) provide energy-efficient cook stoves and solar lanterns to more than 200,000 of its members in Rajasthan and Gujarat over the next three years.

IFC will guarantee a loan from local banks to SEWA members by signing a memorandum of understanding with SEWA. The project is subject to regulatory approvals. It is in line with IFC’s clean-growth strategy and will also help to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. It will also serve to demonstrate a self-sustaining business model that could also be introduced in other parts of Asia and in Africa.

“This is one of the world’s largest clean-energy projects aimed at the $5 trillion market of consumers, distributors, and entrepreneurs that forms the base of the economic pyramid,” said IFC, CEO Lars Thunell. “By expanding the availability of energy-efficient cook stoves and lanterns, we can help low-income households increase savings and cut expenses for firewood, kerosene and electricity.”

SEWA, a trade union registered in 1972, is an organisation of poor, self-employed women workers. These are women who earn a living through their own labour or small businesses. Unlike workers in the organized sector, they do not obtain regular salaried employment with welfare benefits. SEWA’s main goals are to organize women workers for full employment and self reliance. SEWA organizes women to ensure that every family obtains full employment.

“This project, called Hariyali, is in continuation of our long-standing with IFC. Hariyali will provide green livelihoods to poor rural women members. SEWA’s self-employed women work in the informal sector, spend 35 per cent of their income on fuel, and walk long distances for firewood spending precious time unproductively. Often our members suffer from forced starvation. There was dire need for an alternative energy initiative,” said SEWA Director Reema Nanavaty. SEWA’s membership of 1.3 million women comes from across nine States of India.

The project is expected to generate carbon credits by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The credits, which will be shared among SEWA members, will also help generate income for them.