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Himanshu Roy

IWB Blogger

Rajasthani Women Train African Women To Become Solar Engineers

  • IWB Post
  •  November 9, 2015


Housewives from Africa who have no history of formal education, have a special connection with this small village in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. Namibia, Zambia and South Africa are some of the countries from which they have traveled 3500 miles just to visit India to get a shot at a better life.

The reason? For a better life and to become solar engineers! Yup, you heard it right. In around six months time, they will learn about the nuances of operating and repairing solar lamps so that once they return home they could also draw an income from their community members by doing this work.

Welcome to Barefoot College, a place which is unique in many ways because of its unlikely bunch of students and teachers. Can you imagine a college where both the students as well as teachers are illiterate and have never been to school?

Filled with wonders, the college has Rajasthani villagers teaching women from Africa whose desire to learn is enough to overcome all the difficulties that come in their way.

“Now my husband at home will do cooking, cleaning, washing. I sleep because I am a solar engineer.”

This is what 39 year old Rosaline has to say when asked about her experience. Seeing these women joke, learn and concentrate on their lessons, it hardly seems that they are far away from their country in a place where the language and culture is different from their own.

And do you know who is behind this entire initiative of Barefoot College?

None other than the husband of activist Aruna Roy, Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy! Isn’t it really mind blowing to know that in the last 10 years this college has helped to light up 50,000 households in 34 African countries by training 450 illiterate women as solar engineers?

And if you thought that multitasking was difficult then you need to hear this. Most of these middle aged women are mothers of teenage children and some are even grandmothers with a large number of grandchildren. It is their eager desire to know about operating solar energy that shows learning has no age limit.

And do you know that the Rajasthani women who are in the role of training these ladies from Africa are equally gritty and determined to leave a mark on the society?

Some of them say that they have braved the rigid purdah system of their conservative families to teach at the college. Hearing about their adventures as they move from village to village, repairing solar circuits is extremely fascinating.

After six months of training, these women will go back to their countries as proud solar engineers, self sufficient and with a cache of memories from their time in Rajasthan.

Kudos to all these brave students and teachers of Barefoot College!

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