Designing for midwives
SEWA bank, a financing partner of SELCO, asked SELCO to meet with a group of midwives to see if there might be a way to help these women in their work. Proper lighting was essential for assisting in childbirth as birthd often happened during the night or in rooms without windows or other sources of natural light. As with most cases among the poor, the lighting of choice had been kerosene lanterns during the night or some arrangements of mirrors during the daylight hours.
Initially, SELCO thought that the midwives could be outfitted with solar lanterns. However, this light could not be easily used during the birthing process. It was difficult to situate the light in such a way as to illuminate the woman properly during childbirth. The close-in work of the midwife would cast shadows.
SELCO then hit upon a new prototype. A solar light and small battery could be affixed to a headpiece and worn by the midwife in a similar fashion to a miner’s helmet. SELCO rigged such a prototype and tested the new design with midwives. The response to the device was positive and the midwives contributed ideas for further refinements, such as making the housing waterproof and providing a more focused beam of light. SELCO was able to incorporate these suggestions in subsequent prototypes of the midwives’ light, resulting in a device that the midwives reported was extremely useful for their purposes.
One obstacle, however, remained. The light proved to be too expensive for most midwives, since they did not attend to a sufficient volume of childbirths to be able to support payments for the devices. SELCO therefore identified other workers, such as rose pluckers (women who harvested rose petals during the night for sale on the subsequent day), who found the device useful in their work and with whom the midwives could share the device and the expense of its purchase.