Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day! I spent my evening listening to some incredible and inspiring speakers talk about women taking charge of their lives, from India to Cambodia to Oakland, CA. There is much to be hopeful about all around the planet.
Earlier in the day I came across a story about the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India. It is said to be the only college fully powered by solar energy. This makes complete sense; it’s Rajasthan after all, where the sun shines practically all year. According to the article I read, it is also the only college training illiterate rural women from remote villages from all over the world. Through a combination of sight, sound and color, these women have become solar engineers and have solar electrified their own villages. And the college supports other sustainability projects in addition to solar.
Over 190 grandmothers between the ages 40 and 60 have brought solar electricity to nearly 11,000 houses in over 100 villages spread over 28 countries, saving nearly 1.3 million liters of kerosene from being used as lighting (thereby reducing pollution and improving health).
Watch a great video that originally aired on CNN on how the school brings in women from around the world to learn about solar projects.
In 2009 the Sierra Club recognized the Barefoot College, led by social entrepreneur Bunker Roy, for applying practical, traditional knowledge and community-owned sustainable technology to reach the desert state’s poorest residents. He brings women from many countries to be trained at his college. Why women? In Roy’s opinion, men are more untrainable, restless, and are more apt to leave the village for work in the city. By training women, especially mature and “gutsy” women, the village and community benefits. It’s a bottom-up solution that works. Maybe we should send some (most?) of our congressional officials to this school to learn about the real world, before they gut the U.S. foreign aid budget and programs that support organizations such as this. I don’t know if the Barefoot College has ever received U.S. funds, but it represents the type of initiative that we need more of in the world.
I’ll stop before I get off on a tangent lamenting pitiful U.S. support for international aid and projects. I’m just glad that there are people in the world with ideas and visions that are making our world better. This is just one of many projects focusing on empowering women, which I believe is key to improving our communities and environment.