Women’s History Month Spotlight: Abaynesh Asrat’s Vision for Solar Energy
What better place is there than Ethiopia, which advertises itself as the land of 13 months of sunshine, to utilize solar energy for basic household needs including cooking, boiling water and even charging your cellphone? A workshop held last month in Ethiopia — hosted by the U.S.-based organization Nation to Nation Networking (NNN) in collaboration with Addis Ababa University — demonstrated this untapped potential of abundant, clean energy with a long term goal of decreasing women’s backbreaking daily task of fetching firewood and coal for fuel. The solar energy program was led by NNN founder Abaynesh Asrat whose prior work included working to eradicate fistula, promoting youth ambassadors for health, and providing diversity leadership training programs.
“Themed ‘The way Ahead with Renewable Energy: A Role for Ethiopia,’ the recent training focused on the utilization of solar energy, solar cooking and water pasteurization,” Addis Ababa University shared on its website. “Nation to Nation Networking organized the training in collaboration with the College of Natural & Computational sciences of the AAU.”
In an interview with the Ethiopian Herald, Abaynesh noted that “solar energy helps families preserve food, saving scarce resources and keeping them healthy” adding the potential of dramatic improvements for the majority of the rural population in her native homeland.
“Young Ethiopians are working diligently to change their fate. Their enthusiasms tells me that Ethiopians have entrepreneurial acumen,” Abaynesh tells the Ethiopian Herald, stressing her hope that the training provided could be expanded as young engineers in the country join the effort and assist in the assembly of the necessary materials.
NNN’s Solar Energy workshop put together in partnership with Addis Ababa University was held from February 21-27th, 2017 at the College of Natural and Computational Sciences of the AAU. (Courtesy photo)
Abaynesh, who was among the 2014 honorees of the People of Distinction Humanitarian Awards, knows a thing or two about positively impacting disadvantaged populations. As a long-time board member of Hamlin Fistula USA foundation Abaynesh was at the forefront of the campaign to treat and prevent fistula, which is a childbirth-related injury affecting thousands of women in Ethiopia as well as various countries around the world. As the National Fundraiser Chair for the ‘Tesfa Ineste’ campaign Abaynesh successfully mobilized the Ethiopian Diaspora in the United States to contribute toward the building of a regional hospital, the Harar Hamlin Fistula Center, in 2009.
Likewise during her latest visit to Ethiopia in February, 2017 Abaynesh challenged Ethiopian scientist to think out of the box about solar energy and empower the new generation to improve their lives.
Abaynesh says she appreciates the assistance she received from Dr. Shibiru Temesgen, Dean of the College of Natural and Computational Sciences at AAU as well as the director of Office of External Relations, Partnerships and Communication of Addis Ababa University, Dr. Zenebe Beyene, in setting up the week-long joint workshop.
“I have lived in the USA for about 48 years,” Abaynesh told the program participants hailing from across Ethiopia. “I decided to come to Ethiopia to do something,” she added. “Moving beyond the rhetoric, improving the health of society supported by science and technology thereby creating jobs.. I hope fellow citizens second this.”