Jacky Yap  |  SG
Published 2014-01-06 10:30:13

The saddest thing about poverty is not that people are poor, but that they all have in themselves, the potential to be great.

That’s the motivation for the Nusantara Development Initiative (NDI), an award winning Singapore based non profit aimed at ending energy poverty through women empowerment. NDI achieves that by helping rural women in Indonesia to become solar lamp entrepreneurs.

Here’s an introductory clip about the NDI initiative that you have to watch:

The Singapore-registered non-profit works closely alongside island communities in the Riau Archipelago, to train women to sell solar lamps to households that have little or no access to electricity.

Solar Lamps
Solar Lamps

Those whom are part of the NDI are called Ibu Rumah Terang, or Mothers of Light. The Ibu Rumah Terang say that, as businesswomen, they enjoy additional income for their families, have gained a new respect from the communities and feel more confident and capable than ever before.

How does the NDI work?enablejsapi=1&html5=1&

Essentially, NDI train Mothers of Light to bring solar lamps to their communities and sell them to those who need them. These solar lamps can last up to five years. Their communities now get light, and the women earn income for their families as well.

Instead of just training them, NDI actually give each woman they trained a business-in-a-bag so that they can start their business and spread the light from Day One.

You see, one of the biggest problems in these areas is that the women may have been trained to start a business, but they don’t have the money or means to actually start one after the training ends. So all the training goes to waste. Our business-in-a-bag overcomes this big problem.

The bag contains a few solar lamps, our training manual, the official program T-shirt, brochures and even name cards. We want them to be well-equipped and feel good about being part of the program at the same time. And that’s not all. We work closely with the rural women whom we trained, motivate them when things get difficult, monitor closely the impact of their work in the community and implement a system whereby over time, they can handle the entire program without us being around. We want them to eventually own the program.

So far, NDI has trained 21 Ibu Rumah Terang, who have sold clean and affordable lighting to more than 2,100 households in the region.

NDI progress


NDI’s Project Light is a collaboration of thirty youths comprising undergraduates, post-graduates, and young professionals from different nationalities and backgrounds, studying or working in Singapore. The project is a full phase of 3-year long project.

Currently, 25 out of 36 million rural households in Indonesia still rely on kerosene, dry cell batteries, and candles due to the absence of a reliable and cheap electrical supply. Solar powered lamps, in particular, are cheap, safe and reliable. Equally important, their introduction into a village can be achieved at relatively low costs and without the need for high levels of technical expertise or constant monitoring, making such projects feasible for student organizations.

Simple solutions can have tremendous impact on the lives of children in poor areas. Here is Nanda, the daughter of one of NDI women entrepreneurs, using their solar lamp:

Image Source: NDI Facebook Page
Image Source: NDI Facebook Page

NDI has certainly done a great job in highlighting the state of poverty in Indonesia, and actually doing something about it. Faith in humanity definitely restored.

The team is currently raising a total of US$8,000 from the public to purchase more training materials and inventory.

So if you are looking to do a part to help, you can donate to the campaign, from as little as US$3.

Read also: Ostrich Pillow, your perfect travel companion, lets you snooze on the go

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