Mother Power

Women in Rajasthan villages harness solar power with expert training from Barefoot College in Ajmer Sita Devi, 55, from Barmer is getting ready to go to the residential Barefoot College in the small village of Tilonia in Ajmer district of Rajasthan. She is one of the 17 women from far-flung villages in the State that the college is hosting to train in solar home-lighting system fabrication, assembling of solar panels and trouble shooting. The college was started by the visionary social worker Bunker Roy 43 years ago. It is now home to women solar engineers, popularly called solar mamas. The students stay in the college for six months, attending classes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Many of them have never stepped out of their homes, and when they come out of college, there is nothing stopping them. “Going to college has increased my self-confidence. I am proud of myself as I have not only fulfilled my dreams but today I am also working in a similar position like my husband. I earn for my home. This is something I had never imagined,” Laxmi, an alumna, says. A view shared by Meagan Kanwar, who says, “To simply set foot outside our homes and to see the world without the gunghat (veil) has made me so confident that I can work along with men and attend to any problems in solar power equipment.” The 2,200 unlettered women who have been trained so far are proficient in designing, installing and maintaining solar energy systems that light up their villages and supply power for various equipment. After completing the course, the solar mamas take care of the systems of nearly 50 homes around their village, earning around Rs. 6,700 each.

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