Tool-Wielding Women in Developing Countries Help Their Communities, Environment

solar training for women photo

Women working with solar. Photos: Barefoot College.

Fixing broken wells, installing solar panels, and repairing bicycles -- these are just some of the hands-on skills women in developing countries are learning to boost their earning power while helping them help their communities, and improve their natural environment. Three different nonprofit programs, working in India, Jordan, and Uganda, among other places, are behind the inspiring results recently reported in the media.

In Jordan, three villagers -- including two illiterate Bedouin women who have never held a job before -- recently returned from a six-month training program at the Barefoot College in India, where they learned to install solar panels and teach others to do likewise, an initiative that will bring sustainable power to remote areas that previously had none at all.

Bedouin Grandmothers Among Solar Leaders
"I never would have believed that the sun can be used to generate electricity," 61-year-old Seiha Al Raja told the Jordan Times. "At the end of the course, I was surprised and very happy that I could assemble and conduct maintenance for solar cells to generate electricity. I am illiterate, but am proud of myself now."

According to the newspaper, Barefoot College has trained 140 grandmothers in 23 countries, where 600 villages are now running on solar power as a result.

The program "is not only about training women to help bring solar power to poor and remote villages but it's also about demonstrating that renewable energy can improve people's daily lives and cut back emissions," the Middle East environmental website Green Prophet wrote in a piece about the project:

Many of the Bedouin communities in Jordan, which previously lived off their herds, are now highly dependent on government handouts... The government sees this project as a strategic way to encourage these poor villages to generate their own energy and also become more self-sufficient.

Female Well Mechanics In India
Poor women are also learning skills that help their communities in India, where 40-year-old female mechanic Ram Rati, previously profiled on TreeHugger, was among the first women to apply for a program run by WaterAid to train mechanics to fix the many broken wells in the region. "When a well breaks, she gets a call, straps her tools to her bike, and pedals on over," GOOD wrote in a recent piece about Rati.

Bicycles are a tool of empowerment in Uganda as well, where more than 200 women have learned how to ride and repair bicycles thanks to the nonprofit organizations Ride 4 a Woman and OneStreet.

Bikes A Tool Of Empowerment in Uganda
The groups ran a three-week workshop in a village classroom earlier this year as part of an "effort to educate disadvantaged women to acquire marketable skills to elevate themselves out of poverty, while promoting an environmentally friendly and affordable transportation option," the urban transportation blog The City Fix wrote recently.

"Part of the program's master plan is to incorporate local women's newfound bicycle skills into running touristic bike tours. R4W advertises local bike tours, both self-guided and expert-led, on its website that explore the Biwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and surrounding villages," City Fix blogger Itir Sonuparlak wrote. "The fee from the bike rentals and donations go into sponsoring a Women's Community Center, serving as a safe haven for women involved in the program. The center will house training courses and a bicycle repair shop, further helping local women improve their skills."

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