After her husband became ill, Mariatou’s dreams were on hold. Now, she’s a confident solar engineer ready to transform her village. Here’s her story.

Mariatou is one of the most recent women solar engineers to be trained at the Barefoot College International training centre in Senegal. Her story is one of incredible perseverance and strength, shaped by the many challenges she faced growing up in a small village in Senegal.

An unelectrified rural home in Senegal with a beautiful sunset behind it

The Luxury of Light

Once, Mariatou dreamed of building a concrete house for her family. Sadly, her husband fell ill, and she had to use all her savings for his treatment.

The absence of electricity in her village made it even more difficult for Mariatou and her community. She struggled to cook in the dark or to do any other work.

As she recalls, It was really tough, we have to cook dinner very early during the sunlight, and when it rained for days, it was very hard to see far away in the open, and the wild animals would come to the village to kill our livestock, which is a huge loss for us.

For Mariatou, even the most basic of needs, like having a reliable source of light, were unaffordable luxuries. If we wanted electricity,” she says, “we had to buy batteries for torches to use at night, which were very expensive for us and not a long-term solution.

This lack of electricity also meant that many children in her village struggled with their studies, as they were forced to study in the dim light of kerosene lamps.

Three rural homes in a village in Senegal with a sunset behind them. You can see that the homes have been electrified with solar energy by the solar engineers from Barefoot College International

A Life-Changing Opportunity

When Barefoot College International representatives arrived in Mariatou’s village to offer a solar training programme, she was initially hesitant to participate. She was illiterate and scared of the unknown, doubting her abilities to learn new skills.

But her love for her family and her community’s pressing need for electricity and light drove her to take a leap of faith and enrol in the program. She recalls, I thought, ‘You cannot always find all the solutions in your village, sometimes you have to go out to explore more’.

A group of women Solar engineers gather together for a photo, one is holding a solar panel. They are training with Barefoot College International.

Solar: A Journey of Transformation

The solar training programme changed Mariatou’s life in ways she never thought possible. She went from being a woman with limited opportunities to a skilled solar engineer, capable of setting up and maintaining solar products.

Her newfound knowledge gave her the confidence to tackle new challenges and share her expertise with her community. As she proudly states,I am not only taking my mind full of new knowledge and things but also my hands full of things. I will be treated like a ‘Queen’ or a ‘hero’ when I will go back to my village.” 

Mariatou, a solar engineer training with Barefoot College International uses a screwdriver to build solar equipment as she trains with Barefoot College International as a rural woman solar engineer

Looking to the Future for Mariatou

Mariatou’s journey serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of education and access to resources. With the skills and knowledge she gained through the Solar programme, she can now help bring light and hope to her village.

A group of solar trainees with Barefoot College International gather for a photo in Senegal with their trainer

As she looks back on her journey, Mariatou says, I am very thankful to Barefoot College International and DP World, and to everyone who made this possible for me. I am grateful that I can bring light to my village, especially for those houses who could not afford solar panels. I cannot express how happy and grateful I am.

A solar electrified home in rural senegal with a blue sky behind it

Thanks to DP World and their ongoing support of our training centre in Senegal, 27 rural women have already been trained as solar engineers.

Learn more about how our Solar programme empowers women and transforms communities.