Partner Spotlight: Swayam Shikshan Prayog

The use of wood fire for cooking has been identified as one of the primary causes of indoor air pollution and a significant contributor to respiratory illnesses and global warming. According to the World Energy Outlook 2015, 67 per cent of the population in India depends on traditional biomass for cooking, which translates into approximately 841 million people.

Founded in 1989, Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) is an organization that empowers grassroots women to achieve sustainable progress in underserved communities in India. SSP promotes a unique approach to meet the energy needs of the undeserved communities through “Sakhis” (translated into a ‘woman friend’) or women who become clean energy entrepreneurs. Sakhis are grassroots women trained by SSP to be foot soldiers to bring about social and economic change.

Urja Sakhi repairing a solar lantern

In an interview, Nita Tanwade, said that over 2000 families in her village Sawargaon in Tuljapur Taluka have purchased solar lights and cook stoves from her, helping the villagers improve their quality of living.

“For several hours in a day, people in my village suffered power cuts. Many couldn’t afford to get an electricity connection. An aged couple who lived in my neighbourhood often complained about having to eat and sleep in the dark at night and feeling unsafe due to lack of lighting, but after villagers pooled in Rs. 500 to install a solar light in their house, they were grateful to have it.” – Nita Tanwade (SSP Sakhi)

With a long-term vision of supporting a movement where women’s groups in poor rural areas are able to socially transform their communities, SSP helps women become a critical mass through inter-village and larger federated associations that control information, assets and represent constituencies. The women also benefit from a support system and social networks (Women for Women International, 2014).

SSP’s initiatives have benefitted over four million women and community members across several parts of India, specifically in underserved areas in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Assam and Odisha.

  • Since 2009, SSP teams have facilitated over 72,000 women to launch first micro- enterprises in trading, services across impact sectors – clean energy, health and agriculture.
  • Village level entrepreneurs launched businesses and services to market clean cook stoves, bio fuel, solar lamps and lights impacting the lives of over one million people across Maharashtra and Bihar.
  • SSP disseminated information and education on drought resilience and recovery, sustainable agriculture practices, and nutrition-sensitive farming to 20,000grassroots women farmers in the last year
  • By unleashing new market-linked livelihoods, the group of social enterprises has increased annual household incomes of entrepreneurs.


2017: Swayam Shikshan Prayog became one of the 15 winners of the Equator Prize 2017 by UNDP. It was selected from over 800 nominations from 120 countries for its women led climate resilient agro-ecological farming model and entrepreneurship and has empowered more than 72,000 women in the Marathwada region of India.

2016: Winner of the 2016 UNFCCC Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activity Awards for its ground-breaking project that empowers grassroots women to emerge as clean energy entrepreneurs and climate change leaders.