Solar mamas light up their villages

They were simple women, mostly illiterate: after a brief training, they’ve changed the lives of people living in their community and become solar mamas, solar engineers.

Before starting their training these women were homemakers or worked in the fields, carried out simple tasks and had never abandoned their remote villages. They spent six months in India with the NGO Barefoot College  and, once they returned to their countries, they were able to install and fix solar plants and teach other women what they had learnt.


Una solar mama al lavoro © Lar Boland /


According to the communities’ development programme each family must contribute the same amount of money it once paid for fuel to support its own solar plant. In exchange for this it will obtain a solar panel, a battery, a mobile battery charger and three lamps.


solar mamas
Solar mamas are trained to become solar engineers © Lar Boland /


A success on every front: now the women living in the villages are safer because the streets are lit, the girls can study or attend school even in the evening, after they’ve done the household chores during the day.


But that’s not all: for these women, being able to put in a useful work, having skills and knowledge to share in order to promote the development of their community means to be empowered and independent even in difficult family situations.


soalr mamas
Solar mamas, solar engineers at work © Lar Boland /


The NGO chose women of all ages exactly for this reason: to give them an opportunity. And also because women are more deeply rooted in their community than men, who are prone to leave their village once they’ve acquired the knowledge.


At first, many elderly were skeptical, but when they saw the women on the job, they changed idea and recognised that solar panels improved life in the community.


solar mamas
Solar mamas are trained to become solar enginners © Stella / Barefoot College


Since the year of its founding, 1972, Barefoot College has trained for six months in India more than 800 women coming from remote communities of 73 different countries. Since 2015 a new centre where trainee women train other women has been opened in Zanzibar to prevent women from travelling to much and another centre is under construction in Burkina Faso.

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