Solar Sister Spotlight: “The community sees me as a hero”.

Hilaria Paschal’s home in Madukani, Tanzania along the edge of Tarangire National Park, is a flurry of activity.

On a hot Thursday afternoon, a village meeting wraps up nearby, and then a spontaneous performance including drums and dancing springs up in front of Hilaria’s home. Behind them, a group of basket weavers works patiently on their newest creations.

Hilaria was one of Solar Sister Tanzania’s first recruits. She was already a lifelong entrepreneur, making and selling handmade baskets, so becoming an SSE was a natural fit. Hilaria was excited to strengthen her business skills, and she was personally motivated to increase the availability solar lamps. She has an allergy to smoke and dust that makes it difficult to read or weave baskets by the light of kerosene lamps.

“If I had studied I would have had so many opportunities. I went to primary school only. I don’t want my children to be like me.”

Many of the people gathered at Hilaria’s home are also Solar Sister Entrepreneurs with multiple businesses to their names. Their busy lives and myriad commitments are like the fibers in their baskets: every story shares the same structure but takes a slightly different path. *

Hilaria has long been an inspiration in her community, encouraging her fellow women to develop their business and expand their reach.

In June 2017, Hilaria’s hard work was recognized by the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA), who awarded her Woman Entrepreneur of the Year. She travelled to New York to accept her €1,000 prize and speak at the 2017 Sustainable Energy for All Forum.

Hilaria invested some of her prize money in her businesses and put the bulk of it towards her daughters’ education. For Hilaria, educating her daughters is one of her most important goals.

Since becoming a Solar Sister Entrepreneur, Hilaria estimates that her income has increased by 70%, and she has funded a formal education for all of her children.

*A recent update from Hilaria with an excerpt from an article by Bittersweet Monthly, “The First Light In the Last Mile”, published May 2023 written by Nolan Burger and photographed by Andrew Quartey and Erica Baker.

This blog was originally posted on Solar Sister’s website: