Ministry of Social Welfare, Women & Poverty Alleviation, UN Women, the Indian High Commission and Barefoot College.
Ten women will soon set foot again on Fiji soil after having been away from their families for the last six months, studying at the Barefoot College of India.
Whilst people return from overseas studies all the time, these women are different as they are mostly grandmothers, from rural communities and are illiterate or semi-illiterate.
Last year, UN Women together with Barefoot College of India in cooperation with the governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Nauru, locally based CSOs as well as the Government of India started a partnership on “Solar Grandmothers” to allow 29 women from the region to attend a six months training at Barefoot College in India.
Founded by Mr Bunker Roy in 1972, the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan recruits women from around the world to attend the college campus in India for six months to learn skills in solar engineering. It allows women time to learn, practice, and perfect their knowledge base before returning home to their villages where they will apply and pass on their valuable new skill.
Following the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) of 2011, it was emphasized that reduced access to resources including energy, hinders women’s full participation in sustainable development.
It is also recognized that women and girls are disproportionately burdened by the lasck of access to modern energy sources; and that therefor, significat social and economic benefits can be realized enhancing women's access to energy such as solar power.
Now on the 15th of September 2012, the first 10 women will return to Fiji, much richer in knowledge and qualified as solar engineers, and will go back to their villages and communities, where they will assemble solar energy system to serve the villages where they come from. With the support of UN Women, Barefoot College will supply 376 household solar energy units and in addition, 9 equipped workshops will be delivered and distributed to home communities of trainees
Ministry of Women acknowledges the timely assistance and partnership from UN Women, Indian High Commission and Barefoot College to open up this innovative initiative to empower the 10 grandmothers as Fiji’s first solar engineers.
It’s a life changing program and it greatly complements the government’s poverty alleviation strategies to empower the disadvantaged and women to go to greater heights in being agents of change in their society.
This joint initiative by UN Women, Barefoot College, the Fijian Government, the Indian High Commission along with NGO’s, symbolizes the ongoing commitment in addressing emerging issues of gender equality and sustainable development, where global initiatives have been identified to mitigate and provide solutions.