Solar lamps create safety and reduce risk of violence

Living in darkness is one reason for why women in refugee camps feel fear and are exposed to sexual gender-based violence (SGBV). Darkness makes women vulnerable to attacks, providing a cover for criminal acts, in the end making solar lamps an innovative technology that contributes to better refugee protection, according to the UNHCR.

By: Iben Bjørgulf Antonsen
Poor lighting is highlighted as one of the central reasons for incidents of GBV in refugee camps. This is presented by the UNHCR in a report on Innovative Technology for Better Refugee Protection (p. 5).  

It is hard to estimate exactly how many girls and women are exposed to SGBV, because many incidents go unreported. Especially SGBV is highly stigmatizing for which reason females keep full discretion. Yet WHO assessed in 2014 that as much as 36 per cent of the female population in Africa have been a victim of sexual violence committed by their partner (p. 17). About 12 per cent have experienced non-partner sexual violence (p. 19).

40 per cent of violence happens at night

The UNHCR estimates in a report from 2016, that roughly 40 per cent of cases of GBV in refugee camps in Kenya happen at night. A significant number of survivors being children, it is described that:

“Without the security and protection afforded by light, women and girls may not feel comfortable going out at night, even to latrines or washing areas. Darkness provides cover for crime and vandalism, and puts women and girls at risk of rape and sexual harassment” (p. 4).  

As cited here, one of the reasons for why the UNHCR categorized the BRIGHT SunBell solar lamp as a core relief item was its ability to establish security for girls and women through light. Connected to incidents of GBV, the UNHCR Innovation Service describe how “the exposure to darkness in refugee settlements has regularly and consistently been linked with an increase in protection risks through hidden protection threats.”  

Solar lamps creates safe spaces

With no light after sunset in a refugee camp, there is little incentive to leave the shelter, unless going to latrines. Going to latrines is described as commonly and consistently linked with serious cases of SGBV. Solar lights are therefore described as a way to “reduce the risk of sexual and gender-based violence” by the UNHCR (p. 6).

Light is simply not just light. When darkness conceals acts of violence, light reveals and protects. As a core relief item, the BRIGHT SunBell solar lamp has been distributed to more than 3 million displaced people worldwide. Besides prolonging hours of productivity after the sun sets, the solar lamp creates safe spaces and contribute to greater safety in general and for girls and women in particular.