A Day in the Life of Jowallah
October 30, 2008
Trevor and I have spent a few days in the village, and we’ve included the details of one of the women we interviewed. Her story paints a picture of every day life in the village but we found it was a story of potential rather than pity.
This is Jowallah, a single mother of two, whose husband passed away roughly two years ago. In the 1980’s, when her village was displaced by the construction of a government sponsored hydro-electric dam (ironically the village was never provided electricity), she was allotted one acre of land that provides enough food to last the family four months of the year. Every month, Jowallah receives 200 rupees from her husband’s pension, which equates to roughly 4USD. To fill the remaining nutritional and financial gaps, Jowallah can typically find work breaking stones into gravel, or doing odd jobs in neighboring villages. When the work is available, Jowallah can earn an average income of 500-600 rupees (10-12 USD) per month.
Jowallah owns 1 kerosene lamp that gives off as much light as a small candle. On average, she pays 20-25 rupees per litre of kerosene and consumes approximately 6-8 litres per month. In other words, around 20% of her income is spent on home lighting. To purchase the fuel, Jowallah walks over 4 km (about 2.5 miles) each way and is limited to a ration of 1 litre per trip. Total time lost to buy kerosene is about 3 hours.
When we asked how more light could help her live, the response was surprising and definitely encouraging. Jowallah explained that her last two hours of daylight are often spent preparing dinner, which cuts into the time she could use to make additional money. In a separate interview, Trevor and I learned that with an extra two hours of light per night, the women can make “leaf plates” (literally plates made out of leafs), which they can sell in the nearest city for roughly 10-20 rupees per day, almost doubling their income.
Here’s some video footage of the interview:
Even more surprising, was how inspiring these visits to the villages have become. Jowallah and her neighbors don’t evoke sympathy; they are proud people and very hard workers. They’re held back not by skill or drive, but rather the lack of access to some of the most basic and fundamental tools needed to rise out of poverty. This is likely why the more time that Trevor and I spend with the people in the village, the more value we attach to the solar lanterns. The technology at its core seems so basic, yet we’ve learned the incredible impact a light can have on the dignity and livelihood of the people who use them.