My interest in the women Solar Engineers and the Mahila Samiti groups for women’s empowerment in Rajasthan comes out of a personal involvement that links art, women empowerment, ecology, technology and social engagement. When I learned about the Barefoot College project, I was struck by certain similarities between two practices that seem worlds apart at first sight: my own artistic work environment and the practical trainings/workshops in Rajasthan.
Okno is an artist-run organization for media, art and technology. Its focus lies on collective technological research projects. Current projects use sustainable energies like solar/photovoltaic and wind energy to weave city communities, mesh networks and public space art projects. Our decentralized DIY workshops are a platform for sharing knowledge to come to poignant results.
Barefoot College in India uses a bottom up format to train solar engineers. The learning environment is open and decentralized. Knowledge is passed on in the collective from the bottom up using a hands-on approach. The village community selects which women will be sent on a 6 months solar engineer training, and every village family contributes a share in the remuneration of the engineers to set up and maintain the village solar system. When I went to Barefoot College for the first time, I discovered that the solar workshops are only a very small part in a much bigger story concerning the empowerment of the participating women.