After cooking – with much difficulty – with her grandmother’s open local firewood stove, Happy Amos, the founder of Happy Energy-Saving Stoves, was determined to find a better option for women. Her research led her to build improved stoves that can emit less smoke, cook faster and consume less firewood. She has also empowered the women financially by making them the distributors of Happy Stoves. To commemorate the International Women’s Day, The Interview shares her story:
How does it feel being an entrepreneur in the energy sector?
I feel like a champion and at other times, I just want to disappear. Being an entrepreneur in the energy sector especially the household energy sector where I am currently has afforded me with lots of opportunities to learn, to make money, to meet new and interesting persons – and to be frustrated!
But above all, the good outweighs the bad and I can positively say I feel powerful, I feel blessed, I feel strong and a part of other strong women who daily do amazing things despite the odds.
Many rural Nigerian women are not aware of the safer alternative provided by Happy Stoves. What are you doing about it?
We are going everywhere into the towns and communities creating awareness, conducting demonstrations to showcase how Happy Stoves works in comparison with the inefficient traditional ones and we are training women leaders in the communities who, in turn, become the advocates of clean cooking.
You sell your stoves through women distributors, to empower them. How sustainable has that been?
Our women distributors have been the backbone of our company. We would not have been able to sell as much as we have if they were not a part of our team.
Selling the stoves has been the only source of livelihood for some of our women and for others an additional source, it gives them the opportunity to make money and be part of something positive in the community.
It is a sustainable win-win arrangement as we get to sell more stoves in more locations and our women distributors get to make more money from the commission. Happy Stove! Happy Women!
Are there things you think the government can do to create more awareness about this safer and more fuel-efficient alternative?
Yes, there are lots of things the government can do and one of such is to create wide awareness about the alternative through the National Orientation Agency because indoor pollution from cooking and deforestation is a major issue in Nigeria.
It claims the lives of over 90,000 of our people annually, so the government should give it the attention they are giving malaria and HIV.
They could also do a policy where households are mandated to use basic improved cooking stoves.
Make funds available to businesses like mine is also another way to increase capacity.
Selling the stoves has been the only source of livelihood for some of our women and for others an additional source, it gives them the opportunity to make money and be part of something positive in the community
As the world celebrates the International Women’s Day, there is call for gender balance; what does it mean to you?
Gender balance means a lot to me, because it gives women the opportunity to be all they can be without being discriminated against, because of their gender, cultural and natural roles.
Often, I think we are the ones discriminating against ourselves. Let us change our orientation and change the lies that was told to us and begin to tell ourselves our own truth
The theme for this year’s celebration is, think equal, build smart, innovate for change. Where do you think women come in here?
I think we are everywhere when it comes to “think equal, build smart, and innovate for change”. Women need to stop thinking less of themselves and take the bull by the horns.
Often, I think we are the ones discriminating against ourselves. Let us change our orientation and change the lies that was told to us and begin to tell ourselves our own truth.
Let’s educate ourselves, let’s hold each other’s hands and come up with ways that are unique to us to move ourselves forward.
In your line of business have you ever been discriminated for being a woman? If yes can you share such an experience?
I will say yes and no. There have been people who will rather talk to my driver because he is a man than talk to me.
They will say because I’m a mother and because I sometimes has to go to meetings with my baby, I will not be able to deliver.
Also, there are people who supported me and gave me opportunities because I’m a woman. I have over the years relied on the positive and refused to allow anyone to pull me down.