Tilonia village regulary sees locals and foreigners interact on ways to empower lives through solar power | Express
JAIPUR: Tilonia, a small village in Ajmer district of Rajasthan, is helping light up the lives of people in remote, backward areas across the world. The Barefoot College in this village teaches women from under-developed regions to assemble solar-powered equipment. Last week, the 20th batch — a group of 45 women from 10 countries — graduated from the college. Diplomats from five countries attended the event to celebrate the success of this initiative to make a better world.
These women, who will now be known as ‘Solar Mamas’ were taught the skills for making solar panels, lights and photovoltaic circuits during a special six-month course. Interestingly, the trainers of these ‘Solar Mamas’ are modestly educated women from Tilonia and neighbouring villages.
The Barefoot College, set up four decades ago to give vocational training to women from less privileged backgrounds, has trained over 15,000 women till date, through training in solar energy applications is a relatively recent initiative.
Naw Nwin Nay, a 52-year-old grandmother from Myanmar, has proved that age is no bar for learning. There is a major scarcity of electricity in her village. “Life is difficult, especially for children who can’t study after dusk. We have to depend on kerosene, but its availability and price is an issue. Initially, we faced a lot of problems here because of language, food and culture, but slowly we managed,” she exclaimed.
Ilivani from Fiji said the Winston cyclone devastated the country three years ago and life in her village became miserable, with no roads and electricity and rising kerosene prices. The mother-of-five got an opportunity when she was selected to attend the training in India. “These technical skills were new for me. Dealing with diode, resistance, IC, condenser was difficult initially. Language was a barrier; teachers here talk in Hindi. So, we communicated through signs. Now, I have made lots of friends from across the world. I hope I can earn my livelihood by selling solar lights, batteries, roasters etc.,” said Ilivani, who will move to Lautoka, the second largest city of Fiji.
Of the 45 new Solar Mamas, 10 are from war-torn Afghanistan and eight of them lost their husbands in Taliban attacks. Said Shashie Ahmedi from Gazni: “Our children have seen so much violence, pain and suffering. We are taking a gift from India for their future.”
There are 35 ‘master trainers’ — underprivileged local women who empowered themselves by learning the skills and are now sharing their knowledge with the world — at the Barefoot College. Leela Devi, 45, from Kishangarh, has studied only till Class 3. In 2003, she took the training and became a teacher. “We teach foreigners with the help of sign language and gestures. Sometimes, we teach them simple Hindi words so that they can understand us.”
Ziaulhaq Akhondzada, second secretary in the Afghanistan Embassy, said, “India is helping us rebuild in various ways. The skill training by Barefoot College will not only light up our villages but also give strength to our women.” Bhagwant Nandan, HoD, Solar Department, at the Barefoot College, said this training helped provide light to 84,000 houses in 1,293 villages, benefitting about 7 lakh people. About 7.86 crore litre kerosene was also saved in the process.
“We will miss Tilonia. Life has given us this opportunity and we are filled with gratitude. Thanks Tilonia, thanks India,” said an emotional Ilvina.