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December 2016, Vol. 11, No.

Dreaming bigger dreams: Empowering womens lives through affordable power


supply in Samoa
By Imrana Jalal

Louise Naomi Tumua Malolo of Fagalii Village,


a micro-business entrepreneur, says that one
of the best things about being connected to
affordable electricity and, in particular, to the
prepaid electricity system Cash Power is that it
enables her to earn her own money and
determine her own destiny. I want to control
my own life, she says. Malolo has opened a
new shop a few steps from her front door and,
with new affordable electricity connections, has
Louise Naomi Tumua Malolo: Earning an income three bought a few freezers and refrigerators, selling
steps away from my home fresh vegetables, groceries, and meat to

nearby villagers.

Working close to home is a considerable gender benefit for young women with babies and
toddlers. Malolo said that opening her new shop close to her house allows her to simultaneously
perform several domestic duties including caring for her toddler children as well as working at
her small shop. If it is a busy time in the shop, she is able to employ another village woman to
take care of her two children so Louise can attend to the shop full time. Often she still managed
to look after her children as well as work in her shop, without the extra help. This underlines the
importance of creating employment close to home for women with small children.

Box 1: Louise Naomi Tumua Malolo, Fagalii Village,


micro-business entrepreneur: I want to control my own life.

I am 24 and have two toddler children. I am one amongst nine siblings. I am expecting my third child
soon. My husband is a sailor. I opened my small village shop one year ago, as a first time micro-
entrepreneur. The project, through the provision of Cash Power, has enabled me open my shop, and to
stay open an additional three to four hours longer. The reliable supply of electricity allows me to have
refrigerators and frozen goods in the shop. I have two refrigerators and one cooler. My shop is right
outside my house and enables to me walk only two meters to run my business. This is what I love most
about my business, as well as being in control of my own life. Because my business is right outside my
house I will be able to continue working in the shop even after the baby is born. I now have a number of
electrical appliances including an electric washing machine, an electric kettle, and an iron which makes
my life easier. One challenge I face is the Samoan aitalafu where people want to buy on credit and pay
later. I am selective about whom I extend aitalafu to, depending on whether they pay back or not. If it
wasnt for the shop I would be dependent on my husbands income and it is not enough for my growing
family. I really need business and financial training to improve my business and profits. I know I could
do this if I learnt how.

Other women have said that the affordable power connections through the Asian Development
Bank (ADB)-supported Samoa Power Sector Expansion Project (PSEP) has reduced their time

poverty, allowed them to earn better incomes, decide when to work and when to rest, and to
informally educate themselves about their health, politics, and the economy through TV
educational programs.

A special gender equality review mission1 of the PSEP in Samoa found that access to
continuous electricity appeared to reduce the time spent on housework. Concomitantly, it also
increased womens waking hours, which contributes to relieving time poverty and creating
additional or new income, as well as enabling them to assist children with school homework. It
also adds rest and leisure hours that overburdened women badly need.

Faauaafu Asofiafia Tuaau says that the burden of collecting firewood mostly falls on her but she
often has help from her children. She used to collect firewood for cooking every two to three
days for one to two hours. The PSEP and Cash Power have reduced the need for firewood and
have had a positive impact on her domestic
time poverty. She now has an electric frying
pan and a rice cooker. The most important
benefit of electricity for her is that she can stay
awake longer and spread her work more, as
well as spend time watching TV which serves
an important educational function for her and
allows her to rest more. She feels her life is
more balanced, that there is less drudgery, and
she has more choices about what to do with
her time. She would like to start a small ice
block business for extra income. The extent to
which the opportunity costs of time spent by
women on collecting firewood or continuing
with electricity substitutes are taken into
account, depends on the value accorded to
womens time.2 Faauaafu places significant
Faauauafu Asofiafia Tuaau and Imrana Jalal of ADB
value on her time savings.

Fuamatata Lome of Wendys Design says that the
provision of electricity supply to her small business has
enabled her to earn more, stating, I earn more money
now than when I worked in the media.

Others are dreaming bigger dreams of using electricity


through Cash Power to sew clothes at night to sell the
next day. Alio Paulo is able to print her fabric and sew
clothes in the evening to sell in the flea market the
following day.
Fuamatata Lome of Wendys Design and two
female staff


1
The mission comprised Asian Development Banks Imrana Jalal, Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development),
Social Development and Climate Change Department and Grace King, Senior Project Officer (Financial Management), South
Pacific Suva Office,, Pacific Regional Department, accompanied by three Electric Power Corporation (EPC)/Project Management
Unit (PMU) staff including Savaii Fiu, Project Accountant, PMU; Elisapeta Collins, Project Assistant, PMU; and Moetuasivi Asi,
Public Relations Officer, PMU.
2
ADB. 2015. Balancing the Burden? Desk Review of Womens Time Poverty and Infrastructure in Asia and the Pacific. Manila.

Box 2: Fuamatata Lome of Wendys Design:


I earn more money now than when I worked in the media.

I have five children aged between four and 14. I own Wendys Design with my husband but I
am mainly responsible for it. I used to work in the media and I used to sew at home and sell
clothes. Two years ago I opened my business, Wendys Design. I have Cash Power. I save
money because the tariff went down after Cash Power was installed. I am able to plan my
electricity supply, I am able to design and sew at home at night because of the safe electricity
supply at home, too. I use about 20 tala every two days for my business. Before it was very
expensive. Now I can go home and spend more time with the children. I employ two other
women and two men. The men print the fabric and the women sew. I pay the women more. I
am earning more money now and making more profits as a small business owner than when I
worked in the media. I am really happy.

Through the state-owned enterprise Electric Power Corporation (EPC), the PSEP helps the
Government of Samoa improve its financial capacity
and the reliability of its power sector, including
upgrading the country's distribution and generation
system to meet the growing demand for electricity.
EPCs prepaid Cash Power system has reduced the
collection of customer arrears and helps consumers
manage, conserve, and budget their electricity
consumption.

Over 35,000 people have benefitted from the


continuous, uninterrupted, improved supply of cheaper
electricity, of which 55% are female. About 30,000
Alio Paulos shop at the flea market
customers are provided electricity through Cash
Powers cash prepayment meters.

Before the project the supply of electricity was unreliable and expensive. Some women said that
it was particularly hard with taking care of children, and much time use went into preparing
lamps before it got dark.

Box 3: Alio Paulo, Fagalii-uta: My dream for the future is to expand, have a big shop

I have a store at the flea market in town as well as a small store at home. I prepare my
products at home. I support 20 people who live in my two-roomed house. The main income
earners are my sister, my husband, and I. Cash Power teaches us not to waste electricity
and how to manage its use. My small shop is outside my home. This is a major advantage
being close to my house because I can print fabric, sew, and still work in the shop if I need
to. We have a hard life but everyone helps. I make more money out of the flea market store.
Having electricity through Cash Power allows me to sew clothes at night to sell the next day.
Yes, it makes my working hours longer because I have power at night, too, but its worth it.
Before we used to spend 100 tala a month, now its about 10 tala a week so there is a big
reduction in my electricity bills. My dream for the future is to expand, have a big shop, new
styles of fabric, and train my children to run the business.

Fonoti Perelini S. Perelini, Project Manager in the


Project Management Unit (PMU) has pointed out that
there are significant gender benefits to Samoan
women, both directly and indirectly, stating, ADB is
working with the Government of Samoa to improve the
reliability of EPC and its power sector, including
upgrading the country's aging distribution system, and
adding new generation plants with new equipment and
facilities. EPC has also introduced Cash Power, a
prepayment meter system that helps consumers better
manage electricity consumption, as well as improve the Watch the video on the overall benefits of the PSEP
financial position of EPC. All this provides advantages
to Samoan women.

The Project Accountant in the PMU, Savaii Fiu, says, The 24 hour supply of electricity and
significant reduction in electric tariffs has made a big
impact on womens lives especially as it is women in every
household (HH) that budgets HH income and pays bills. It
is also 10 sene cheaper per kilowatt an hour than the old
tariff, so there are good overall savings as well.

Extra hours gained from lighting and 24 hours of quality


power supply enabled women to spend more time in
productive (market) work or watching television and
reading. Information from the television and books
increased their knowledge about health issues, politics, and
Elisabeta Collins and Savaii Fiu, PMU, EPC economics. Several women said that having access to
cheaper electricity in the evening allowed them more time
to do screen printing of their fabric and sew more clothes for the next days supplies to sell at
the local flea market or in their small home based shops. Women had increased their incomes,
as they were able to meet the increased demand. With greater sales, there was increased
demand for good products, mutually advancing each.

The PSEP has resulted in some sound practical gender benefits for women in the form of
improved, cheaper, and reliable supply of electricity. This has included a reduction in womens
time poverty, and increased their economic empowerment. In some instances, women
benefitted from working closer to home, and had a more balanced life overall. Some women
have opened up new businesses, or expanded existing businesses. The Mission also witnessed
some strategic benefits in improved power in the households and coverage, increased
education through television, and certainly the potential for increased control, power and
autonomy.

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