Light & Liberation
After the solar-powered microgrid started producing electricity in Dharnai, women and children can move around without being afraid and participate in all pujas and festivals. Photograph by Ravi Sahani.
- By multiple authors from Greenpeace India

Dharnai, Bihar — It was a moment to remember. The local panchayat bhavan was buzzing with villagers. They had gathered to select members of the Village Electrification Committee (VEC). Village women were also actively participating. Among 20 elected members of the VEC, three were women.

After collecting signatures and thumb prints of members, the villagers applauded the team and entrusted them with the responsibility of overseeing the management and operation of the Dharnai microgrid.

Gunjan Devi, a middle-aged, slender, sari draped woman, had been elected to the VEC. According to her, electricity has been a blessing for village women.

"Finally we have managed to get rid of the darkness of the evening," she said. "Now street lights and light from the houses with electric connection, have not only lit up the homes and the neighbourhood but the whole village, creating an environment of safety."

Before the solar-powered microgrid started producing electricity in Dharnai, the village had been in the dark with the centralized grid being out of service for three decades. "Women had to venture in the dark to the fields for defecation," Gunjan Devi said. "They had to either carry kerosene lantern or battery torch. They had to be cautious of wild and stray animals, poisonous snakes and scorpions. They had to watch out for men and anti-social people who could cause them harm."

Gayetri Devi, a senior resident of Dharnai village, can now watch television, thanks to the solar-powered microgrid that has been generating electricity in the village on a trial basis since March 2014. Photo credits: Subrata Biswas

"With electrification," Gunjan Devi said, "women feel more confident and safe." Arrival of modern electricity has liberated village women from insecurity, darkness and anguish. The change has been welcomed by all.

Another elderly woman adds, "Now light has made our lives connected. Be it engaging in conversations about daily chores, or coming from the railway station or the bus drop, or even for puja and festivals, women and girls can move around in the neighbouring areas without being afraid."

Gone are the days, when women would have to lock themselves at home after dark, Gunjan Devi said. "In comparison to a few months back, now we spend a good amount of time together in the evening with our fellows. Not only do we cook meals late in the evening, but we spare a good online pokies amount of time for recreation after having dinner with the family, thanks to electricity for lighting our homes and running the television," she said.

"This light has been our liberation," she added, as other women nodded in support.

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