Today, the world is celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD), a global holiday that celebrates women’s cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements. Alongside celebrations, this day shines a light on women’s rights, bringing attention to gender equality, reproductive rights, and more. The holiday began in the US in the early 20th century, mainly as a focal point of the feminist movement. The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975, with each year’s observance centered on a particular theme or issue within women’s rights. The UN’s theme for IWD 2022 is ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,’ aiming to recognize the contribution of women and girls worldwide, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all. And there is no doubt that gender equality sits at the heart of a sustainable future and that solar energy has a vital role in establishing both. Africa has a long way to go to reach absolute gender equality Africa’s Women’s Day initially commemorated during the first conference of the Pan-African Women’s Organization (PAWO) in 1962, affirms women’s role in achieving political freedom across the continent and advancing the social and economic status of women on the continent. The continent still has a long way to go regarding gender equality. The women of Africa play a significant role in the continent’s economy. They are more economically active as farmers and entrepreneurs than women in any other region of the world, growing most of Africa’s food and owning one-third of all businesses. Yet, Women generate only 33 per cent of the continent’s collective GDP though they account for more than 50 per cent of the population, and 70 per cent of women are excluded financially. According to McKinsey’s The Power of Parity Report, The continent has a US$42 billion financing gap between men and women. Looking at social roles and agendas, Africa’s progress towards parity is poor. The continent has the highest average maternal mortality rate. Women’s education and financial and digital inclusion are also below the world average. A bright spot has been some progress on women’s political representation in some countries, with Rwanda having a higher percentage of representation of women in government than any country in the world. However, there is still a very long way to go, and change is direly needed in multiple areas to reach total inclusiveness and parity. The power to empower Like many other sectors and agendas across the continent, solar power is slowly changing gender norms, setting new paradigms in various fields. Through affordable solar home systems, families living in last-mile communities can get electricity in their homes for the first time, with women and young girls deeply impacted. Without electricity access, women and girls often spend up to 8 hours a day procuring wood and combustible fuels for heating, lighting, and cooking purposes. This is part of the strenuous housework that hurts gender equality throughout the continent while also casing young girls to stay at home and help their mothers, forgoing school, education, and a chance for a better future. With solar-based light and electricity, women and girls have time for school and entrepreneurship, having an opportunity to change the known dynamics in their homes and societies. Maternal health, a soar subject in Africa that has long empaired equality, is slowly being impacted through solar energy. Maternal mortality, which historically affected all of society, has long been eradicated from developed parts of the world. Yet it continues in developing regions, and most notably in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 68% of maternal deaths globally occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that number rises each year as other countries and regions progress. Maternal health was at the core of a recent project concluded by Ignite, focusing on women’s empowerment. Through a powerful collaboration with We Care Solar, an international organization that utilizes solar power to impact maternal health, Ignite deployed solar kits in 60 health clinics in rural Sierra Leone. The kits provide medical teams with light and vital medical equipment that is set to change how they treat women during pregnancy and labour. By establishing pregnancy and birth as a safe zone, solar energy empowers women all over the continent, inserting security into the most basic and natural practices. Finally, the solar sector provides jobs and income for millions across the continent, and women are highly incentivized to participate in this growing revolution, and like with many other gender-equality subjects, Rwanda is at the top. Power Africa launched Women in Rwandan Energy in 2019; a network of stakeholders from across Rwanda’s energy sector includes partners from ministries, the utility, the regulator, universities, private companies, and development partners, all committed to increasing women’s participation in Rwanda’s energy sector. Ignite, for example, has more than 33 per cent female employees, striving to reach 50 per cent in the coming years. For the venture in Sierra Leonne, the company devised a women-led team (over 80 per cent women) to manage the project and deploy the systems - women empowerment from A to Z. According to McKinsey, Africa could add $316 billion or 10 percent to GDP in the period to 2025 if each country makes advances in women’s equality to match the country in the region that has achieved the most progress towards parity. This has to start today, and solar power must lead the efforts while establishing a sustainable future for all.