Last week, PBS aired the premiere of Solar Mamas, an inspiring documentary of one woman’s journey to transform her life after being offered the opportunity to become a solar-energy engineer.
Rafea Ehnad is a 32-year-old mother, and a second wife to an unemployed husband; she lives in one of Jordan’s poorest desert villages. With only five years of formal education, she used to spend her days living off a meagre government assistance fund in a drafty tent, struggling to care for her four daughters — hoping to provide a better life for them. Now that she’s graduated from India’s Barefoot College as Jordan’s first female solar engineer, she spends her days trying to convince her community that an educated woman is worth the investment.
“A girl is not supposed to continue school past age 1o because it is shameful. Is it not shameful that the youth of these girls is wasted without work? Without an education or purpose in life?”
With help from the Ministry of the Environment, Rafea was one of two women from Jordan chosen to join others from Guatemala, Kenya, Burkina Faso, and Colombia in a special six-month program to receive training on how to wire and install solar panels. After pressure from her manipulative husband, Rafea is forced to quit and the documentary focuses on her struggle to get back to the college and start a branch of the Jordanian Association for Sustained Development in her community — with the future hopes of training other women as solar-energy engineers.
This film not only highlights the importance of using sustainable energy to improve conditions for the rural poor, but also argues the importance of providing education to women, without sounding patronizing. More than once it’s mentioned that the reason women are accepted into this program is because they are the ones invested to stay and improve the conditions of their communities. An educated man will leave to earn money elsewhere. [Read more...]