Shamma Jogi. Solar Cooker Engineer.
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The main problem for our poverty is water. We all work as farmers and without rain there’s no harvest and no money. Nobody of my family or in-laws is educated. I took the decision to go a few years to nightschool, as I felt the need to learn and during daytime I had to work on the fields.
My husband is a truckdriver. He supports me completely in my decision to work. We need to feed our children. It’s important to give them a decent future with a good education. That’s why I decided to come to Barefoot, because of the jobs.
My husband is happy that I feel good in this community. The money I earn helps us for paying our expenses.
Since I got married I worked in the house. The people from Barefoot came to the villages to talk about their program. They spoke about solar lighting and handicrafts and education. My in-laws asked if they could teach me solar lighting so that I could bring electricity to the village as we don’t have light there. My in-laws were very supportive, they understood Barefoot was an interesting place for learning.
I was supposed to learn how to make home lighting systems and later go back home. My in-laws wanted me take care of the house and its lighting and nothing else. But I told them that I wanted to learn more and work like the other women here. If men can work outside, then why not women.
I assured them if I would face any problems I would come back home. In the beginning they used to see me very tired, my eyes were irritated and my hands got burnt. My family asked me to quit but I knew that I had to face these physical inconveniences if I wanted to change my situation. The last thing I needed was to go back to the village and cut wood and cook on stoves.
Finally my family understood I loved my new life and since then they co-operated and now everything is fine.
I started the training at Barefoot in the solar photovoltaic section. After 3 months a German engineer, Scheffler, turned up with a technique for building solar cookers. Guruji, in charge of the Barefoot solar program, encouraged all interested men and women to follow this new training. There were also people from Afghanistan and Ethiopia and even Korea to follow the training. In the beginning I was reticent about my participation as I thought welding and construction was nothing for me. I considered it too difficult for a girl. But they convinced me that women can do what men can do, and if I wanted to change my life I should give it a try.
Barefoot College didn’t promise me an absolute security. They only offered me the possibility to learn. After that it’s up to yourself. If you are good, you can get a paid job and even go for more trainings. The monthly fee offers a greater financial freedom for my family. There was also the possibility to live on the campus and to raise my kid inside an interesting community. A lot of different people live and work here, and there is no discrimination of caste or sex. Men and women work on an equal level, and I have much more freedom than I would have in the village. I also learn a lot from all foreigners I meet here.
I’m very happy with the fact that I persisted to go for this change, my actual situation makes me feel special.
I have my own bankaccount and I earn around 2200 rupees (50€) a month. More than that I don’t need. I teach people from other countries now, and I love that. We communicate by bodylanguage and learn with hands-on actions, as we don’t speak each others’ language. I teach them how to use the solar cookers, but also how to make them from scratch. A small 2,5 suare meters cooker takes up to a month to make, with 2 people.
From time to time I follow a workshop to improve the cooker-technology, to adapt it in a better way to our proper needs.
We even started our independent solar cooker cooperative for production. The cookers are mostly bought by other organisations for use in community kitchens.
I would love that more women come to the workshop and learn about this technology and how to work with it. One day resources as gas and fuel and kerosene will run out but sunlight never will. The one-time investment is rather expensive, but afterwards one can make profit out of it. We don’t waste natural resources as wood. Solar cookers also improve our lives in a healthier way. Less lung diseases as asthma, less unusefull time-consuming daily activities as making and watching fire.
I would like to continue learning about these alternative possibilities that makes life easier. I’m not bound to go somewhere else, as I’m perfectly happy here in the community. And the campus offers the possibility to learn more as regularly new people are visiting and new ideas are tested out. This specific mix of people offers a fertile cultural basis for my kid to grow up and to assure him a prosperious future. What else do I need?