Tag Archives: barefoot college

MAHILA/WOMEN – short film

name: Politics of Change project, short film, year start: 2009, year end: 2009, techniques: highdef video + sound, english spoken, subtitles Nl, Barefoot Solar Engineers

In MAHILA, the filmmaker steps between different worlds, going from West to East, from urban to rural surroundings. Her encounters with the experiences and observations of rural Indian women provoke reflection on the process of empowerment. In an artistic ethnography we see and hear how they are using education, technology and politics to redefine their destinies. As we trace the filmmaker’s memories we are taken into questions about story-telling. How are the women fighting to get their stories heard? Can the filmmaker tell other women’s stories?

A film about grassroots activism, eco-technology and networks of women.
A film about the Barefoot Solar Engineers.

Mahila/Women – 26:00

Summer 2006, a few months after I met Mr. Vasu Srinivasan at the Luminous Green Symposium organised by foAM, I decided to develop a project on the Women Engineers of the Barefoot College and the Women of Tilonia.
Diving into the matter, I quickly made up that a documentary movie had to become the central issue in the project. My interest for the women Solar Engineers and the Mahila Samiti women of Tilonia comes out of a personal involvement that links art, women empowerment, ecology, technology and social engagement.

Introduced to the Barefoot College project, I was struck by certain similarities between my own relatively protected work environment and the specificities of the trainings/workshops in Rajasthan.


Okno, a Brussels-based artist-run organisation for media, art and technology, focuses on social art and community-based technological research projects. To be more specific: current projects research the implementation of sustainable energies as solar/photovoltaic and wind energy in community-based city- and meshnetworks and public space art projects.
Belgian and international artists work together in a DIY-approach and during the decentralised workshops the sharing of knowledge is an important factor to come to valuable results.


The solar engineer training at Barefoot College, India has a similar structure: productivity results from collective work; the learning environment is open and decentralised and knowledge is passed on in a bottom-up and hands-on way.
From start on, the decision to step into the solar project is community-based. The village selects and delegates its future women engineers for a 6 months training, and every village family engages itself to pay its share in the remuneration of the engineers to set up and maintain the village solar system. January 2008 I went a first time to Barefoot College to meet and interview the solar engineers. There I discovered that the solar workshops are only a very small part in a much bigger story concerning the empowerment of the women in question.

POLITICS OF CHANGE – publication

name: the Politics of Change Magazine, magazine, year start: 2009, year end: 2009, techniques: print, networked stories

#01_on women empowerment and creative networks
An artistic research project driven by grassroots activism, eco-technology and networks of women to build integrated and sustainable relationships between people, their environment and technology.
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.

click image to download the magazine


name: politics of change (poc), project, year start: 2007, year end: 2010, techniques: local communities, international networks, sustainable solutions

Politics of Change (PoC) is an artistic researchproject that documents the contribution of small communities to the construction of a more balanced society. POC is a collective work where artists, activists and ecologists, economists, educators and anthropologists want to initiate collaborative dialogues to research ideas and solutions which support decentralised structures, diversity and community development.
The project involves not only public discussion, but an extensive mapping and documentation of these proposals in an art context. Drawing on a wide range of artistic and theoretical fields, the aim is to imagine new and sustainable relationships between humans, their environments and technologies.
As artists, filmmakers, theorists and activists we have to enrich the public debate around sustainable living, the environment and eco-technology. We have to think about the kind of future in which
 we want to live and work. What social and economic systems can we envisage beyond the regular ones? Is there anything that we can learn from existing (non-western) experiments?

politicsofchange-full sarju najma
to download the POC magazine, click its picture

The case study of the Barefoot College project is a good example to open the discussion.
The project builds upon Gandhi’s philosophy: ‘be yourself the change you want to see in the world’.
The highlight of the project is the solar department, where women from Asia, Africa and South America
are trained to become a solar engineer. During the 6 months training the women learn to work with appropriate technology to serve the needs and daily necessities of their communities.