AVON — The Sustainable Community Film Series — a project of Walking Mountains Science Center — continues this month with two screenings of “Solar Mamas,” a film that addresses themes of education, gender equality, environmental sustainability and development. The documentary takes an inspiring and compelling look at poverty, and the ways women around the world are working to pull themselves out of the poverty trap.
The Barefoot College in India trains impoverished women from around the world to become solar engineers. “Solar Mamas” tells the story of Rafea, a Jordanian Bedouin mother who is given the opportunity to study there and become a solar engineer, capable of bringing power to the remotest places. She attends the college’s program, which brings together 27 women from all around the world. They’re all from poor backgrounds, they are mothers and grandmothers and mostly illiterate. For six months, they live on the campus and learn about electrical components and soldering. But staying the course is not easy because:
• Women make up half the world’s population and yet represent 70 percent of the world’s poor.
• Of the world’s 875 million illiterate adults, two-thirds are women.
• Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, but earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the world’s property. On average, women earn half of what men earn.
The Barefoot College focuses on women because, as founder Bunker Roy explains, women are more likely to stay in their communities once they’ve been trained. Unlike men, who’ll take their new knowledge and leave for the big cities, the women will return to their families and homes, bringing their new skills back to share. But traditional family ties make it hard for some, particularly Rafea, to continue their studies. Her husband wants her home and threatens to take everything away from her unless she returns.
“This film provides an eye-opening opportunity to see solar energy used as a tool for an improved lifestyle for women and villages around the world,” said Kristen Hartel of Active Energies of Minturn. “By choosing a career as a solar electrician, women can be seen capitalizing on both an income-generating opportunity and a way to improve and progress their communities.”
Statistics provided by Walking Mountains Science Center.