Barefoot College, Tilonia
Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan trains illiterate or under-educated women and men in practical engineering. Women do 70% of the domestic and agricultural work in India, however Barefoot College has, since the early 1970s, been training women in what are considered technically challenging men's professions such as solar engineers, handpump mechanics, computer instructors, masons, night school teachers.
The College does not prioritise literacy, but rather problem-solving skills such as basic law, making women aware of the Right to Information, minimum wages, violation of human rights. This, along with their training and employment, give them a way out of the sheer, numbing drudgery of rural life for women in most of the world.
Having solar lamps allows night school and less use of kerosene, toxic in closed spaces. Having rainwater harvesting systems allows women more time to do other things than walk miles each day collecting pots of water, or firewood, or candles.
The mandate of Barefoot College is very much about the empowerment of rural, barely literate women caught in a caste system and rigid social roles. At the same time it has trained 15,000 women and installed thousands of solar lighting units and rainwater harvesting systems.
Barefoot College does not give out degrees or even certificates that could perhaps become a kind of currency leading to migration. They do not want their trainees to move to the cities, but to stay in place, in their communities. Plans are to extend Barefoot College to Africa and South America. Bunker Roy, the founder, says language isn't a problem. Sign language will do.
I suppose that one solders a circuit plate the same way no matter what language is spoken. This in itself is a revolutionary idea. We are altogether too logocentric here.