Solar Grandmothers

Solar Grandmothers: Lighting up their worlds…


Imagine you are a women living in rural India…someone who has never left the confines of your own village…


Imagine that for light, you must rely on kerosene, a substance harmful to human health, or burn firewood, a practice detrimental to the environment…


Sadly, this is very much a reality in some of the poorest areas of India.


The Shining Hope Foundation is proud to support Karuna-Shechen, our partner charity, who work with the Barefoot College to train illiterate ‘grandmothers’ – from places where it would seem impossible to have a solar electrification system – to become solar engineers. In September 2013, two women were selected from the village of Bihar in Northern India, to take on this challenge and embark upon a journey to light up their own world.


The process…


Village ‘elders’ agree to select two grandmothers to be trained as solar engineers. They choose a village committee composed of men and women to help drive the solar program and then provide a workshop building where the grandmothers can run their operations. The solar engineers are specifically middle-aged women.


During their six months of school at the Barefoot campus in Tilonia, the grandmothers experience an personal transformation as they prepare to install, repair and maintain solar lighting units for a period of five years. The grandmothers realise their ability to learn complex concepts, which builds their self-confidence and brings out their potential to be valuable sources of positive change in their villages.


Upon returning to their villages, the grandmothers bring with them the gift of electricity. Using solar panels to generate electricity means that villages can experience a considerable reduction in air pollution, fire, health hazards and deforestation.


In return for their installation, maintenance and repair services, the female engineers receive a monthly salary from the village solar committee.


Seeing it all in action…













Next month, I will be going out to India to visit the Barefoot College and I am very excited to meet the team. We know so much about the project, but there is nothing like seeing how it all works first hand. Everyone seems so happy and I can’t wait to feel their energy and motivation. I met Bunker Roy and Meagan Fallone earlier this year in Geneva and really admire their dedication and motivation. I am looking forward to speaking to grandmothers who have come from all over the world, especially the two that we are supporting, to find out how they are getting on. It is going to be a hugely inspiring trip!


We hope that when the two grandmothers that we are supporting return to their home village, they will gain greater recognition of their value in society, and a sense of ownership. Obtaining a role like this at their age helps to empower them. Thanks to this training, the grandmothers will be able to come back and convey a message of hope, change, and a sustainable future, which will hopefully inspire future generations to do the same for their community.



Marie Saint-Arnoult


Marie is a Trustee and co-founder of the Shining Hope Foundation. She oversees the charity’s relationships with its partners abroad to ensure maximum project effectiveness.  She has also spent several months working on Shining Hope’s projects in India and Malaysia.



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