'Barefoot' grandmothers electrify rural communities
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of CNN
Posted: March 22nd, 2011
Turning grandmothers into solar engineers is one of Sanjit "Bunker" Roy's favorite jobs. Roy is the social entrepreneur and founder of the Barefoot College and has been championing a bottom-up approach to education and empowering rural poor since 1972. It is now a global enterprise with roots in India. Roy recruits women from around the world to install and maintain solar lighting and power in their home villages. The United Nations estimates that around 1.5 billion people still live without electricity. "The way to go about this is not a centralized grid system, which brings in power from hundreds of miles away," he says. "It is to bring in basic light right down to the level of basic household wherein they take ownership and control over that technology." Women are the focus for the solar power projects that the Barefoot College runs because men "were very untrainable," says Roy. "(Men) were restless, compulsively mobile, and they all want a certificate and the moment you give them a certificate they leave the village and go to the cities looking for jobs. So why not invest in women, older women, mature women, gutsy women who have roots in the village and train them." Coming from countries across the world, the women are trained for six months before returning home. Many of the women have previously never left their villages before.