Light is something we take entirely for granted in the developed world, but there are 1.3 billion people worldwide living without electricity- and 620 million in Africa alone. That’s over 90% of the rural population of an entire continent. In this highly entertaining and educational TEDex talk, HRH Princess Abzeita Djigma from Burkina Faso in Western Africa explains what life is like living without light, and what she is doing to make a huge difference in her country.
Abzeita, who runs a company called AbzeSolar, is a direct descendant of the famous warrior and legendary Princess Yennenga who is considered the mother of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso. She’s surprisingly down-to-earth despite her Royal blood, a woman who radiates kindness and compassion. The Princess’s big smile and her warm personality is very evident in this talk, which was given in Amsterdam to an all-female audience.
Abzeita was sent to school in Europe aged 7, and is a trained engineer. The Princess has dedicated her career to designing solar energy lamps for Burkina Faso’s rural population, and says that light is more important than we imagine: it helps elderly people go to the toilet in the dark, it helps children to study and play, and it allows small businesses to work in the evenings.
This inspirational woman is full of beautiful quotes like this: “If you educate a girl, you educate all of humanity,” and “Go where you are needed, not where you want to go.” Abzeita’s renewable energy lights are called MAMA-Lights (“Because mothers always light up our lives,” she says with a broad grin). “When you give the means to the people, then they can empower themselves.”
This philosophy runs through Abzeita’s company: not only is she providing light to those who need it the most, but AbzeSolar trains local people to install, maintain and sell the lamps. This creates jobs and boosts the local economy, so it’s no surprise the Princess was chosen as one of 14 winning innovations that help to achieve the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to MAMA-Lights, AbzeSolar manufactures solar-powered street lights and panels for businesses, solar heaters, portable reading lamps and much more. All the products are eco-friendly. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Abzeita is also passionate and heavily involved in a better future for Burkina Faso’s women, and set up a program called ‘Mamas for Mamas’ where women can train each other and gain opportunities for a brighter future.
“I”m advocating for all of us,” Abzeita tells the audience. “I am fighting for all of us: for the rights of women, for the training of all youth and women. In Burkina Faso we are the first ones in the developing countries to be [fighting] for womens’ rights.” She ends this lovely speech with an open invitation: “Everybody is welcome on my continent. You’re all invited. You’re welcome, I want you and I have a lot of love for you! We are one human being.”
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