The Social Work and Research Center, commonly known as the ‘Barefoot College’ is a groundbreaking Indian social organization that works at multiple scales on development and women’s empowerment.
Founded in 1972 by Bunker Roy, has trained more than 3 million people in education, technology and work skills. Roy’s conviction is deeply rooted in Ghandian philosophy, and he began the Barefoot College that the solutions to the problems in rural India lay in the villages themselves, not in outside assistance. The college is a cultural institution with reach all over the world, but is also a physical place in Tilonia, India: the 80,000 square foot facility was designed and built by locals, using traditional techniques and materials – a statement, as it were, on Roy’s philosophy.
The organization has a heavy emphasis on infrastructure like water and power. Much of the developing world still lives without either. The College seeks to provide such resources, but also to train villagers in their construction, maintenance and operation.
In 2004, the College went global, training women in the Middle East, Africa and South America, and always with an emphasis on the least-developed nations. As part of a program with the Indian Government, the College also operates an exchange program, where elderly, uneducated women are selected from rural villages and are brought to Tilonia, India for a 6 month fellowship. There, they study, and practice to become master solar engineers. After six months, they are able to return to their home villages and bring all the skills necessary to electrify their village with sustainable solar technologies. They participate in the formation of a ‘solar committee’ which becomes the steward of the solar equipment in the village. The woman, meanwhile, is paid a monthly salary to fix and maintain the solar equipment and, literally, keeping the lights on.
Learn more about the Barefoot College’s decades of work, at the links below.