One Mama… and one Village at a Time
On July 2nd, 2019, the opening ceremony for our new Solar Training Centre in Tsiafajavona, Madagascar, was launched, its audience brimming with hope and optimism. Hosted by the team of Barefoot College Madagascar and our Head of Africa Operations, Anais Amazit, the celebration was attended by representatives from the EU, the World Bank, the Ambassador to the African Union and other donors from across Europe. Funded by the government of Madagascar, ground partners and The Government of India, the centre is currently training its first 12 ambitious women from various villages of Madagascar.
By 2030, the Centre expects to have trained as many as 744 illiterate, lightly educated women to become certified Solar Engineers, who can return to their villages and provide light for around 630, 000 homes. Each term, which lasts for 5 months, will eventually train and house 50 beneficiaries, all women, then provide them with the equipment to install solar panels in rural villages once they have graduated.
Previously, all 27 women from Madagascar that took the Solar Training courses in Rajasthan, India, passed the training and returned home, empowered and confident in their personal abilities. Equipped with knowledge that spans beyond Solar Engineering, such as our unique Enriche curriculum, the women develop into martyrs for their communities, spreading the wealth of female wisdom they acquire during their Barefoot journey.
Florette Vonjiniaina, a Solar Mama alumni, says that her husband completely supported her visit to India to take the training courses. He, like Florette, recognized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a chance to provide the village with clean, affordable energy that relies on a fuel- sunlight- that is widely abundant and reliable year-round. They insist that the impacts were felt in their daily lives following her return. They could work into the evenings, Florette had a steady source of income, and children in the village could finally study at night using the Solar Lanterns.
Florette has to-date electrified 200 homes in her village. Her biggest surprise was that she- an undereducated woman with little to no common language- could pass. She remarks that all of the women in her classes passed, so she is very confident that the Solar Training is ideal for any rural woman. Florette insists that togetherness and mutual aid amongst the women helped them all to succeed and believe in themselves at a level they had no experienced before.
See more about Florette and other graduates from Madagascar in this recently published short film by 2424 (in French):
In the foreseeable future, all 27 of the graduated women of Madagascar will potentially become Solar Master Trainers for the new Centre, like Florette and fellow graduate, Philomene. They know it will help their communities, and assist them in changing the minds of men, which is already evident in their own villages.
I am illiterate, yet I passed. I will impart this knowledge on new women- if I can do it, why not them?– Philomene, Solar Mama Graduate
Women are recognized at Barefoot as key players in reducing poverty in the Global South. In communities where women are often set on the sidelines, Solar Mamas return to lead the way in the centre lane, inspiring other women, influencing children of both genders, and proving to the men of their villages that they are capable of greatness.
Reducing Poverty for Women… and Everyone
Thus topically, this program is focused on women helping women. But through helping women, entire regions- and their natural ecosystems- are supported. The effects become widespread, and that is why these Training Centres are just the beginning. The State of Madagascar itself realizes this, and as part of the National Program Barefoot College launched by the Ministry of Energy, Water and Hydrocarbons of Madagascar, it is establishing the Solar Engineering program Nationally.