A group of grandmothers in the rural Philippines are being hailed for bringing light to their community. They have trained as engineers and are now able to provide homes in their village with solar powered energy.
Ms. Clemente and three other women – all members of an indigenous Filipino group called the Aeta – returned to Manila from Barefoot college, Rajasthan in northern India, where they had spent the last six months learning to build, maintain, and repair solar-powered lamps as part of a training program for impoverished women, Philippine news outlet Rappler reported.
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.