Monday, February 4, 2013

Barefoot College

In November 2012, I watched a TV show on PBS - "The Making of Solar Mamas". I was so impressed to see that a school in India organized courses for the rural people from the whole world and taught them solar technology to get jobs & earn money. It was really exciting and amazing for me. Now, I feel more proud to be an Indian. But when I did research about it, I was shocked to know that this was only one part of its work. The school's name is "Barefoot College" located at Tilonia district in Rajasthan and is working in various rural areas since 40 years.

The school "Barefoot College" is a non-government organisation, whose mission is to improve the quality of life of the rural poor people, and make them self-sufficient and sustainable. These 'barefoot solutions' can be broadly categorized into the delivery of Solar Electrification, Clean Water, Education, Livelihood Development, and Activism. With a geographic focus on Least Developed Countries (LDCs), it believes strongly in Empowering Women as agents of sustainable change.

In late 1960s, a small group of determined Indian people felt that there is need of alternative ways of living, thinking and looking for solutions for problems facing by rural communities. They had no long term plan. They just started to teach the rural people to make them their life better. They start this with few rural parts of the country.

With little resources, they educate urban people and then they come together with a big idea. They started a college 'Barefoot College' in 1972. The name emphasizes the organisation's commitment to poor, neglected and marginalized sections of society. Barefoot college started working in the village of Tilonia in Rajasthan, with a population of about 2000 people on 45 acres of Government land.

Bunker Roy is one of the founders and now Director of Barefoot College. He was a cartographer, typist and social activist.

Members of the college were geologists, economists, doctors, medical and social workers, chartered accountants, graduates and post graduates from universities who were out to serve in the villages. They focused their efforts on trying to find out the needs and priorities of village communities to improve their standard of living and quality of life.

The college has adopted the Gandhian ideas into its lifestyle and work ethics, holding it true and relevant universally even in the 21st century. Gandhi's central belief was that the knowledge, skills and wisdom found in villages should be used for its development before getting skills from outside. 

Gandhi believed that sophisticated technology should be used in rural India, but it should be in the hands and in control of the poor communities so that they are not dependent or exploited.

Gandhi once said that there is a difference between Literacy and Education. He believed in the equality of women.

The Barefoot College and the individuals who work with it have established a code of conduct for our organization. They believe that they must -
  • Live and work in close proximity with the rural community,
  • Create a space for creative and constructive personal growth - not discriminating against caste, religion or political thinking,
  • Ensure gender equality within the organization,
  • Have an intrinsic belief in the democratic political process and not follow partisan political agendas or include partisan politicians on the board,
  • Judge the worth of people by their willingness and ability to learn - not by their paper qualifications,
  • Believe in the law of the land and have a commitment towards social justice through non-violent means,
  • Have respect for collective, traditional knowledge, beliefs, wisdom and practices of the community,
  • Be committed to the preservation of natural resources and not endorse processes that destroy, exploit or abuse natural resources,
  • Use appropriate technologies that sustain the community and not encourage technologies that deprive people of their livelihoods,
  • Set a personal example in adhering to the code of conduct.
I wanted to write a big article on this topic as there is so much I wanted to tell to my friends. You can know more about Barefoot College by visiting it's official site "Barefoot College". Here are some pictures showing great works of Barefoot College -

Welcome in the Barefoot College
HAND SHAKE:-2010-Prince Charles with JOKHIM CHACHA (main puppet of Barefoot College)
These toys made by Tilonia artisans.
Beautiful collection of bags made by Barefoot Artisans. These are all designed and manufactured at the Barefoot campus. The rural artisans produce not only bags but also clothing and accessories, decorative home furnishings, furniture, rugs, textiles, handmade paper products, puppets, educational toys, metalwork, and leather goods. The crafts are sold through retail shops and exhibitions held in metropolitan cities of India, Europe, USA and Canada.
Meet the Barefoot Puppet Family :) The Communication Team is expert in making puppet replicas of barefoot staff.
The Shiksha Niketan, the day school of barefoot college.
Disrupting Poverty : How Barefoot College is empowering women through peer-to-peer learning and technology
The women of India's Barefoot College bring light to remote village
The women bringing solar power to Sierra Leone
Women Barefoot solar engineers a community solution
Barefoot College has been named one of the Top 100 NGOs in the world by The Global Journal in the 2013 

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