Mothers as Leaders

When we train illiterate and semi-illiterate women through our unique Barefoot training programmes, our main objective is not to simply send them home with vital skills and knowledge for self-sufficiency. We trust that every woman we train will propel that knowledge by training at least one other woman or child with what she acquired during her own transformative journey.

As mothers, they become determined to continue encouraging the importance of education on their children. They’re also more likely to keep their children enrolled in school for longer, which becomes easier with solar-powered lighting that enables children to study later into the evenings.

Mama Patima gazes lovingly at her daughter under their solar-powered light

We recently sat down for an interview with Solar Mama Patima of Zanzibar, who embarked on a journey to Barefoot College’s Indian campus in 2013. She was one of our first Mamas to come to India all the way from Zanzibar.

Patima returned home after her 6-month training to solar electrify homes in her community. She is still using the panels today which she installed herself, and her neighbours are still benefitting from her solar installations. She was eventually asked to be a teacher and help with the opening of our Zanzibar training centre. Patima was asked about the benefits of training in solar engineering, and what her thoughts are for other women who are interested in taking the training themselves.

Watch her full interview below, questions from her interview follow:


Interviewer: Did solar help you?
Patima: Yes, solar has helped us so much because before we were using kerosene lamps [that made] a lot of smoke, and our children are now studying without smoke, so it has helped us well.


If you’ve ever had the opportunity to experience the gravity of smoke that just one kerosene lamp emits within moments of igniting it, you understand the harm that it can cause. Closed rooms fill with fumes in mere seconds– you can imagine what it can do to a child’s lungs, or a mother’s while she is cooking.

Patima learned the ins and outs of Solar Engineering to remove the need for kerosene


Bright Minds and Healthy Lungs

But it’s either that or not study at all if there’s no access to clean, renewable light. With Patima’s efforts to install solar lights in her village came the gift of worry-free, healthy studying. The Barefoot Diva Solar Lantern lasts hours after it’s been charged, with ZERO toxic emissions and no risk of causing a fire if accidentally toppled over.

   Interviewer: What is it like to become a solar engineer?
Patima: After I came back, I became a teacher to train my fellow women.

Interviewer: What are your favorite memories from the training in India?
Patima: What I remember is we didn’t learn solar only, we learned how to make chalk, candles, sewing reusable pads, sewing mosquito nets and other things, I have benefitted a lot.


Patima has been using solar for 7 years now, for everything from light to charging her cellphone


   Interviewer: How long have you used solar in your house?
Patima: In my house? Seven years now and more.

We adore this response; for more than seven years, Patima has continued using the knowledge and technology that she discovered while learning with Barefoot. This is the sustainability we have aspired to foster around the world, and an affirmation that our programmes are long-term solutions to rural communities’ ongoing successes. She continues to lead by example and inspire us.

 Interviewer: If you can give every woman one piece of advice, what would it be?
Patima: I advise my fellow women: if the opportunity to go to study comes up, they should go so they can benefit like me.


Your support has gifted Solar Mamas with the knowledge and skills to help whole families thrive


As emerging leaders in their communities, Solar Mama graduates become our global ambassadors, perpetuating gender equity and women entrepreneur mentalities wherever they are. As women who recognize the important role that education plays in healthy societies, many Mamas come to the conclusion themselves before even leaving India to return home. They’ll often tell us “I can’t wait to return to my country and share what I have learned here. It will help my whole community!”

Support more women like Patima for Mother’s Day.