A Yemeni Frontline Woman Inspires 163 Communities

Posted March 17, 2022

Iman Hadi inspiring other Yemeni women from her experience and successful business on solar power microgrid | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen/2021

According to climate assessment reports, approximately 3.3 to 3.6 million people live in areas highly vulnerable to climate change. However, developing and crisis-affected countries like Yemen are more vulnerable to climate change. Yemen’s protracted conflict has led to a state of instability resulting in untenable development patterns that increase climate hazards – especially in rural communities directly dependent upon ecosystems – to meet basic needs.

Climate change affects everyone, but often increases gender inequality, particularly in rural areas where women are primarily responsible for providing the family's needs for water, cooking fuel, and energy. Women may not have ability to voice their views or talk about their resource or service needs that help them adapt to climate change.

But the gender-based business model applied by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of the Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen’s (ERRY) solar activities helped remove the economic, social, and cultural barriers that hinder women's participation in climate change adaptation interventions. 

Iman Hadi, a young woman living in a village located on the conflict lines, was able to break societal restrictions. As a woman living in the Yemeni countryside of Abss, it was not easy for her to run her own business in solar energy. Her father, brothers and some from the community were opposed to the idea of Iman running a solar power plant.

Iman knew from the very beginning that having a career would be challenging, including the social constraints that created obstacles for many female entrepreneurs in Yemen just like her. However, her determination and persistence helped her overcome these hardships. Her success in business has helped to fundamentally change the beliefs of the rural community about women, their rights, capacity, and the important role they play in the context of conflicts and crises.

Iman has proven that women can and should be seen as active agents and promoters of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Iman not only succeeded in providing clean low-impact energy for residents in Abss, Hajjah Governorate but was recently announced as one of BBC’s most influential women for leading positive change and making a difference during Yemen’s turbulent times.

Since she started her business three years ago with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU), the number of customers has increased from 25 to 48 and the net profit has reached YER 2,210,000 (approximately US $3,684) – a significant sum in rural Yemen.

Iman's success in running and growing a small enterprise in solar energy showcased the significance of engaging women in climate-related activities to ensure the sustainability of results, thus mitigating effects induced by climate change.

Iman is an inspiring community influencer. Her success was the first spark for the implementation of 163 solar microgrid enterprises in rural Yemen, helping crisis-affected communities sustain themselves and survive the crisis through income creation and energy generation. One solar micro-grid contributes to the reduction of 53,236 kilograms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the past four years, and the 163 microgrids significantly contribute to reducing almost 2.17 kt (Kilo Ton) emissions of GHGs resulting from fossil fuel-based energy supply for a year.

Iman always felt a sense of responsibility towards her community. Because of this, she invests in her fellow community members and strives to raise awareness of the importance of green energy to enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities to crises and climate change. Thanks to Iman, other women will be given the opportunity inside and outside Yemen to establish similar solar enterprises that will promote the use of green energy as an efficient alternative source of energy.

Iman’s ambition is even stronger despite the challenges she has faced and her perception as an entrepreneur has changed. She plans to expand her business through potential investors willing to provide funding for her to expand. Shifting from a recipient of humanitarian assistance, Iman has blossomed into a successful business owner and social influencer.

Iman’s message to Yemen’s women continues to be: “Do not stand where you fail. Strive with determination and confidence and your dreams will come true.”

In total, UNDP and its partners the Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), Care International, and For All Foundation (FAF) have installed 13 solar microgrids in four vulnerable governorates of Hajjah, Hodeidah, Abyan & Lahj, benefitting more than 44,000 people. 713 individuals were trained in solar power system installation, maintenance and business management to help establish local solar power businesses and ensure the sustainability of renewable energy systems in Yemen.

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These activities were implemented as a part of the Supporting Resilient Livelihoods and Food Security in Yemen Joint Programme (ERRYJP II)  co-financed by the European Union (EU) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).