Despite the fact that the life of 227 million of Indonesians are already fulfilled with abundant source of electrical energy, we should not forget that there are other 30 million of Indonesians who barely meet their basic energy needs of electricity.
The Lamalera Tribe who live in the eastern part of Indonesia, specifically in Lamalera Village which located in Lembata island, is one in the millions of Indonesians who suffer from the lack of electrical energy source. The region is under the supervision of Nusa Tenggara Timur province and categorized as underdeveloped region as it takes as far as 280km only to reach the capital of the province.
Roughly it takes almost 24 hours by ship to reach Lamalera village from the capital of the province. The long journey did not stop here, as we have to pass through another 86km of wrecked and rocky asphalt road, and another limestone rock road with numerous holes on its body.
Approximately, there are about 200 villagers living in the region. About daily, they have to endure the lack of electrical energy which lead them to many difficulties. They solely depend on PLN (Perusahaan Listrik Negara, English: State Electricity Company) to support them with electrical needs. PLN is the biggest electrical supplier in Indonesia which largely rely on fossil fuel to deliver their electrical source.
However, the amount of electrical energy delivered by PLN in that region was never enough to fulfill the basic daily need of its 200 people. As for the consequence, above 7pm, Lamalera tribe often spend their night in darkness because they don't have enough supply of electricity. Charging phones, making coffee by using electric water heater, accessing internet, or using computer are luxuries that they probably would never get.
This condition puts the children of Lamalera tribe into difficulties to study at night. The men cannot go fishing in the night to feed their family. The women have to struggle to make woven fabric in the pitch black of night, while it also makes them afraid to go out of the house since the darkness makes them vulnerable to any sexual crimes. It has becoming their routine to spend a day without electricity, while sometimes it goes for several days, weeks, or even in a whole two months.
The scarcity of electrical energy also takes place in another 5 villages around Lamalera, such as the village of Beutaran, Lelata, Leworaja, Imulolong, and Belobao. This condition certainly affects everyone, both men and women. However, we should know is that in fact it also covers gender dimension: the scarcity gives the women twice as much of the burdens rather than men.
Especially the local women in rural area who have to spend most of their time doing house chores in the dark. A local woman named Mama Kimila said, "from day to night, night to day, I work myself off to make cakes. My children then would sell them around villages. If the lights won't light up, I won't be able make any cakes. If that happens, we couldn't eat anything for the next day because we couldn't make any money".
In order to get enough lighting source for both doing their house chores and ensuring their children to be able to study at night, Lamalera local women usually use kerosene lanterns. Meanwhile, kerosene lanterns are claimed to be particularly dangerous since it produces household pollution and health problems for humans. WHO expected that there are around 6.5 million people who died due to the use of kerosene lanterns.
A Hope from The Last Mile
In 2011, Lamalera local women's hope for a better access towards electricity finally has been granted when Kopernik came to their village. Kopernik is an Indonesia-based non-profit organization that connects basic technology to last mile communities to reduce poverty. This philanthropist venture was founded by Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska.
Previously, they worked together in United Nation before finally resigned to build Kopernik in 2010. One of their most recognized works is Ibu Inspirasior Wonder Woman Initiative which distributing bright and clean energy of solar-powered lamp to the women in rural areas.
The S20 and S300 solar-powered lamps have practical design, simple, could be easily moved, light but also resilient. In order to operate the lamp, Lamalera local women would only need to expose it to direct sunlight to gain energy. With maximum sunlight, roughly the lamp would stay for 8 hours, but it would only stay for about 4 hours if the sunlight was not strong enough (ie: cloudy weather). It makes the solar-powered lamp to be categorized as green technology since it doesn't need fossil fuel and only uses natural sunlight as its main energy source.
Kopernik's solar-powered lamps were priced between Rp 200.00,00 until Rp 500.000,00 with one-year warranty. The lamps, which shaped like bottle drinks, were originally distributed to replace kerosene lanters which largely used by the villagers in Lamalera village, in addition to provide their basic electrical needs that they did not get from PLN.
However, Kopernik did not give the lamps for free to the Lamalera local women. They believe any aid that comes for free will not change their life into a better one. Toshi said, "we can't treat them as passive aid recipients, we need them to develop themselves and live a sustainable life".
Due to the reason, Kopernik recruited several women to be micro social entrepreneur who are responsible to distribute the solar-powered lamps to those who experience energy scarcity. Those women are called as ibu inspirasior wonder woman by Kopernik due to their effort in helping the improvement of many local women's life by distributing green technology. From each of the solar-powered lamps that they managed to sell, they gained their commission or additional income.
They indeed are not the one who created their own solar-powered lamps, they 'only' act as distributor from Kopernik. Even so, they have the right to decide their selling price, according to how far the distance is and the kind of transportation they used. For example, Kopernik set the price for one unit of solar-powered lamp for Rp. 200.000,00 -- Rp. 500.000,00, while the wonder women have the right to sell it more than the original price set by Kopernik. They are also free to choose over credit, cash, or other method as their payment system.
Those wonder women are not merely distributing the solar-powered lamps but they were also given several trainings to improve their essential soft skills that matter for their own life, such as financial literacy that include on how to manage household finance, marketing, and other skills to start their journey in using technology as marketing tools.
Wonder Women for Wonderful Change
There are a lot of changes experienced by Lamalera villagers since Kopernik introduced their solar-powered lamps. Now the children are able to study comfortably. The women are finally managed to make woven fabric and do their house chores with proper lighting. As well with the men, they are no longer afraid about going home empty handed since they have proper lighting to go fishing at night. Moreover, the wonder women are able to provide incomes for their own family's prosperity.
One of the wonder women named Mama Rovina was able to build her own house by selling the solar-powered lamps from Kopernik. Previously, she lived with her neighbor because her husband was wandering around to make money but never came back nor sent her additional incomes. Meanwhile, she was left at home with two children whom she had to take care for. "I used to dream on having my own house, even if it wasn't big. By selling the solar-powered lamps from Kopernik, now I have another dream, to save some money and send my children to school.", said Mama Rovina.
The hard works from Mama Rovina and other wonder women brought the light into the life of almost all Lamalera villagers with their eco-friendly solar-powered lamps. In 2016, there are already 388 wonder women in Lamalera village and the area around it and they have joined Ibu Inspirasiprogram.
The wonder women managed to bring the life of 62,775 people around Lembata island to achieve better life quality through green technology, such as solar-powered lamps, solar-powered home systems, and water filter (Kopernik). Approximately the wonder women gained their increasing revenue as much for 12% each month for selling those products.
PLN with their massive fossil fuel failed to fulfill the electrical needs for Indonesian local people. Meanwhile, the solar-powered lamps which being controlled by the local women could cover almost the whole island. If previously they must spend Rp. 50.000,00 -- Rp. 100.000,00 each month to buy kerosene, the solar-powered lamps only took them for Rp. 5.000,00 -- Rp, 10.000,00 each month.
The existence of green technology made Lamalera local women to feel safe to do outdoor activities when the night falls. Their family members can also be free from the risk of catching certain disease from the use of kerosene lanterns. In addition, that better energy access also give them more chance to explore their prime potential to create a sustainable life. Not only to benefit themselves, the role of wonder women through Ibu Inspirasiprogram also succeeded in helping the government to minimize the emission of CO2 for about 5000 tons (Kopernik).
What have been done by Lamalera local women inspired us to create the term of "energy democracy". The people of Lamalera, through the action of its local women, have chosen to no longer depend their life to fossil fuel as the main energy source as it is claimed to accelerate climate change. They have solely depend their life on new and renewable energy through the solar-powered lamps.
They are not only becoming passive consumers of NRE, but they have the ability to distribute it to other villagers who experience the similar probem, to set the product's selling price on the market, as well to decide the proper payment method.
The local government nor Kopernik are no longer have the right to control the whole profit, their job is now to produce NRE technologies and monitor the project implementation. Aside from that, the power is held by society. New and renewable energy did not only gave them easier life, but also increased their financial prosperity. That's how "energy democracy" works.
"Mother of the archipelago: women as light, for their friends and relatives, for beloved Indonesia", said the wonder women.