In spite of a lot of literature on the subject, gender equality in rural areas and many parts of the developing world remains an alien concept. Women are still uneducated and unemployed – which is unreasonable considering that they constitute half the population. Governments entrusted with the responsibility of bringing women to the mainstream in these backwards have either not done enough or fared miserably. As such, the responsibility falls on private and multinational organizations like the UN, HRC, Amnesty etc.
Barefoot College is an Indian NGO that has been actively educating women for over 40 years. They have turned women into engineers, operating in rural India and Africa. With their objective being helping women make their communities self-sufficient and sustainable, Barefoot College has been teaching women solar electrification, public health, mechanics, dentistry, clean water technology and radio operations.
Women from several African nations – particularly Tanzania – and around India have travel all the way to a remote village in Rajasthan where the NGO is located. The courses are funded by the Indian government. They are of 6 to 9 months in duration, and since there is no common language for communication, the classes are taught mainly in sign language. Most of the women don’t know how to read, and are usually grandmothers when they arrive for the courses.
The founder of Barefoot College, Sanjit Roy, says “Training older women rather than focussing on men is the key to improving living conditions in poor areas.” An avid activist, Mr Roy was featured in Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Barefoot College’s location is an obscure village in Rajasthan, but its legacy is far-fetched. It has educated more than 6000 women in the past 40 years, and many of these women go back to their hometowns and begin schools of their own, spreading the beacon of knowledge. An example is Zanzibar, where 13 former Barefoot College students have electrifies over 600 households in Africa.
Barefoot College recently tied up with UN Women to spread the message of gender equality. The Logical Indian community applauds organizations like Barefoot College and visionaries like Mr Roy who are working hard to bridge the gap between men and women in developing countries. Freedom is only meaningful when everyone has a share of it, and the struggle for gender equality is at its core a struggle for freedom.
Image Courtesy: Barefoot College