Via the wonderfully titled article, “Solar Powered Grannies” we learn about this excellent project promoting women’s empowerment and human rights:
Bunker Roy operates his Barefoot College in India on the same principle, taking illiterate grandmothers and turning them into solar engineers. He won’t train men, and he won’t give certificates.
“Men are untrainable,” Roy told me when I interviewed him last December. “They’re impatient, they’re restless, they’re ambitious, and every one wants a certificate” because a certificate opens the door to a lucrative job in a city.
“Grandmothers are solid, sound, patient,” Roy continued. “They’re willing to learn slowly, and they are rooted in the village. They have no interest in going to a city.” The evidence of their knowledge is not a diploma, but their proven ability to do the work.
Solar electricity ends such horrors as childbirth by candlelight and long treks to carry stinky, smoky kerosene. With a cellphone and a solar panel, a woman has a business and an emergency communication system. With a solar panel and a laptop, the village has an educational system.
Barefoot College has trained women from villages all over Asia and Africa. In 2005, in the case of Afghanistan, Bunker Roy made a concession, allowing the husbands to come with the wives.
“Through sight and sound and sign language, in six months they became solar engineers,” he said. “They went back and solar-electrified the first villages ever in Afghanistan, five of them. To bring ten men and women from Afghanistan, train them for six months, buy 150 solar panels, transport them, insure them and install them in one year is the same cost as one UN consultant sitting for one year in Kabul.”
And the Afghan women were no longer subservient. Their husbands now worked beside them, and when one woman went to sit with the men, and was challenged, she said simply, “I am not a woman. I am an engineer.” When last heard from, the Afghan grandmothers were installing the first solar-powered water desalinization plants ever seen in Afghanistan.
Sounds like money much better spent than any Blackwater contract. But then empowering women and ensuring their human rights was never why we went to Afghanistan in the first place…You can learn more about the program here.