Millicent Odira, a clean energy entrepreneur from Migori County’s Rongo location, Kenya, is a true proof that when women and girls have equal opportunities as men and boys, they are formidable actors in economic development and social transformation.
Mother of six, she was motivated into the energy business after seeking a stable job without any success. Now she is involved in the improved cook stoves assembling and installation value chains. “Staying at home depending on my husband to buy family and personal necessities wasn’t pleasing at all. Especially on the days he did not have the money,” she says.
Millicent’s life transformed in 2008, when she was trained by a foreign corporation on how to install improved cook stoves for domestic use. She started by installing the stoves in her community, charging for the service. In 2013, through the Migori County’s Department of Social services, Millicent was introduced to the Improved Cook Stoves Association (ISA), which trained her on the assembling and installation of improved cook stoves for use by institutions, such as schools.
“It is after gaining skills on installation of improved cook stoves for schools and other institutions that I embraced the clean energy business and started practicing it on a full time basis,” says Millicent.
In February 2020, her business took a step forward. Through a business project mentor, Millicent was introduced to Practical Action’s Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya (WEEK II) project. Since then, she has attended training on marketing and networking, record keeping and productive uses of energy. Her business has expanded to the extent of becoming a licensed entrepreneur and registering her business as Mildra Green energy and Technology, focused on product and in-house cook stoves development.
When I registered my business, people gained more trust in my energy activity. This has helped me get referrals as far as Kenya’s western region.
Following empowerment trainings facilitated by the WEEK II project, Millicent has been inspired and motivated to bring change in the life of women who have been limited by the patriarchal societal systems. Her determination to engender energy especially through the improved cook stoves value chain, has enabled her to conduct assembling and installation trainings in seven counties of Bomet, Migori, Homabay, Kericho, Narok, Kisumu and Kilifi.
As Millicent has found a way of reaching out to women and even changing their lives to be economically productive, she also hopes she will be able to expand and diversify her business. She is optimistic that by the end of this year, she will complete the building of her house and start saving up for a pick-up, which will be useful to bring her clean cook stoves from the workshop to the market.
This story has been developed by our partner Practical Action in East Africa as part of our Women’s Economic Empowerment Program.