Barefoot College lights up Latin America and Africa
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Government's unique initiative is helping women from as far as Latin America and Africa to light up their lives and homes and of many others. Barefoot Solar Engineers as they are called, are being trained under the Ministry of External Affair's unique and a very successful Solar Engineer Plan as part of its India Technical Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme at Rajasthan's Tilonia.
The Barefoot College, a grass roots movement was adopted as a Training Institute under ITEC in 2008 with a view to supporting the costs of training illiterate rural grandmothers as solar engineers and empowering them to solar-electrify their own villages from developing countries.
Since the ITEC collaboration started in 2008-2009 over 150 grandmothers have come from over 29 of the Least Developed Countries-mostly from Africa- and have solar electrified around 10,000 houses in 118 villages.
According to Sanjit Bunker Roy, social entrepreneur and educator, who has been associated with training the women, "this was a different format of India's technical assistance abroad. The government pays for the air fare, the training and stay of the women for six months."
Describing the women as "marvelous grandmothers", Roy said they choose women from the least developed countries under the UN list, like Sudan, Samoa in the Pacific, El Salvador in Central America and Tanzania.
"Forty women are trained every six months from different countries.. Over 50 countries have been covered in five years. Over 300 women have been trained in five years and 20,000 houses solar electrified in 160 villages all over world," said Roy.
"These women are the ambassadors of their country.. the change agents of their country. In Tilonia, they are taught other basic skills, besides becoming solar engineers.. learning to make sanitary napkins, chalk, candles, rain water harvesting. In other words, we are making them entrepreneurs," he added.
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