Children in Ethiopia do their homework by light of a solar torch

Breaking the Barriers

The Breaking the Barriers programme aims to increase rural women’s jobs and income in the sustainable energy sector, improve working and living conditions, promote gender equality, and strengthen women's social status.

Over the last decade, Christian Aid and its partners have reached remote communities without access to energy across Africa and Latin America.

We have achieved this through the installation, distribution, and integration of sustainable energy products and technologies in our primary health-care, agriculture, resilience and social enterprise programmes by providing innovative financing models, as well as business and technical assistance.

Promoted sustainable energy technologies and products have been used for economically productive purposes in agricultural enterprises as well as at the household level, including lighting and cell phone charging via Pico Solar and cooking through Improved Cook Stoves (ICS).

To scale up our previous energy interventions, the EU funded Women & Sustainable Energy project, 'Breaking the Barriers', will aim to increase women’s access to production, marketing and distribution of sustainable energy products and services, as well as influence environmental policy.

The project delivery is modelled around facilitating existing women's groups to establish Women-Led Sustainable Energy Enterprises (WLSEEs) and providing them with a mix of support including Technical Assistance (TA) in business skills and technology, as well as financial assistance.

This 42-month project, which started in February 2018, is implemented in Burkina Faso, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Honduras.

Women will be able to access finance through savings and loans groups and receive training in business management and sustainable energy enterprises, including solar lamps, solar shops, cook stoves, and biodigesters.

The total project budget is EUR €6,173,615.03, 80% of which is funded by the European Union (EU), the remaining is funded by Christian Aid.

The project was launched on March 8th, to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The solar shop is at the hub of the women's self help group in Ethiopia

The solar shop is a hub in Alduba village, Ethiopia. Women sell essential items such as water and soap. They also have a mobile phone charging hub where people can pay for the service to charge their phones. This helps to contribute to the women’s collective savings pot.

Key information


Burkina Faso, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Honduras


42 months, starting in February 2018

Programme value

EUR €6,173,615.03 

Target population

It is estimated that upwards of 3 million people will benefit from this project

Funded by the European Union

Breaking the Barriers programme is funded by the European Union

Our approach

Women will be supported to create and own Women’s Led Sustainable Energy Enterprises (WLSEE) in some of the poorest and remote off-grid communities.

The established WLSEEs will receive training in sustainable energy products and technologies, business skills and development and the added value of selling or purchasing sustainable energy products, for example, Biogas and solar home systems (SHS) as well as solar-powered refrigerators for fish and vegetables.

Selected women will have access to loans to build their micro-enterprises. Through access to sustainable energy products, communities will be able to reduce expenditure on unsustainable energy sources, including wood, kerosene and batteries.

Women will be able to increase their income by selling preserved foods at a better price when there is low market supply.

Solar powered irrigation systems will enable women to cultivate larger areas, increasing production and reducing time spent on gathering water.

Solar lighting will reduce kerosene emissions and provide cheaper access to lighting for household activities.

To address the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in the market, this project will provide access to capital through a tailor-made financial model.

The model comprises of a grant (70%), a low-interest rate loan (25%) and a contribution from the women in form of share capital (5%).

Finances generated through the loan repayment will go towards the establishment of a Revolving Fund (RF) that will be central to the expansion and sustainability of the project beyond the funding period.

The WLSEEs will also be trained to lobby on regional and national platforms and networks so they can push local and national authorities to take measures to support sustainable energy enterprises, for example, the reduction of taxes on the importation of sustainable energy products.

Farmers in Honduras dry corn in sun driers installed with the support of Christian Aid

Small-scale farmers dry corn in sun driers in Honduras. 


When established, the 201 WLSEEs will drastically increase the local sustainable energy products and related services.

Measures taken by local and national authorities to ease WLSEEs' work will contribute to make this increase sustainable, as will awareness-raising work on the added value of sustainable energy which will boost consumers’ demand.

Sustainable energy products and technologies will be more readily available and at a lower price.