Taken from: http://iapnews.wordpress.com''

At the Barefoot College in Tilonia, 100km from Jaipur, capital of India’s western desert state of Rajasthan, Citu, Mirabelle and Bianca – three middle-aged, semi-literate African women – are engrossed in assembling solar lamps.

The three, who have been here for two months, will train another 16 weeks, learning about charge controllers, inverters, core-winding, deciphering of printed circuit boards, testing, wiring, installation, and repair and maintenance of solar panels. After six months of hands-on training, they will return home to install solar units in their villages, dispelling the darkness forever.

Thanks to these empowered women, girls who graze cattle back home during the day will then be able to attend school at night; other women wouldn’t have to choke over sooty smoke from paraffin or kerosene lamps as they cook; pumps will be able to draw water, and ration shops will be able to stay open till late. These women from far-flung countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Niger, Cameroon and Mauritania are part of a programme which began six years ago by the Barefoot College, a non-governmental organisation in India that has coached many rural Indian and foreign women to make and install solar lamps free of cost.

The Barefoot College began in 1972 with the belief that “solutions to rural problems lie within the community”. The college, which has bagged many international awards for its innovative approach to empowering poor and rural women, encourages practical knowledge and skills rather than paper qualifications.

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