How Illiterate Women Become Solar Engineers

By Ben S. ’16 and Ana P. ’16

According to the Clinton Global Initiative, When women work, they invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared with 35% for men.”

In our Global Issues class, we discussed the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, focusing on the third goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women across the globe. While researching wide-ranging topics such as women’s participation in politics, domestic violence, and women’s share of the workforce, our class watched the documentary Solar Mamas. According to Matthew Devlin, Interim Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at Barefoot College, the college is a “community development institution focused on non-formal education, women’s empowerment, and community advocacy.” The college takes in older women from developing nations, most of whom have received little or no formal education, and turns them into solar engineers. The film follows a Jordanian woman named Rafea, who travels to India to study solar panels in order to become a solar engineer. She faces numerous barriers and challenges along the way, including her illiteracy, her husband, her obligations to her family, and cultural norms that discourage her from creating her own business. Nonetheless, her discovery of learning gives her a sense of purpose aside from family care. According to Devlin, the Barefoot College training programs have resulted in women from 64 countries bringing solar power to 1,160 rural villages and providing light for 450,000 people. In recognition of International Women’s Day, our class wanted to share the story of Barefoot College, and encourage you to check out Solar Mamas at this link and to learn more about Barefoot College.

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