19 June, 2021

Here Comes The Sun

Barefoot women power engineers are spreading the light in a rural Andhra engulfed in despair by farmer suicides

Here Comes The Sun
Till a few years ago, Chennamma and Yelamma were stone-crushers. Kalavati and Zayda were house maids working on the campus of the National Institute for Rural Development (NIRD) at Rajendranagar, Hyderabad. Today, they are barefoot solar engineers who not only make and maintain solar lamps but have travelled out to Paderu Mandal of Vishakapatnam to help 124 households in Pusalapalem and Thamingula villages get solar power and establish a one-kilowatt powerhouse for street lighting.

Brightly dressed in colourful cotton saris and reporting for work at the rural energy workshop between 9.30 and 10 am every day—including Sundays when they have to execute an order for solar lamps and panels —these women represent the face of changing India. In a country steeped with reports of farmer and weaver suicides and large-scale unemployment, they present hope. Chennamma and her team have formed the Women Barefoot Solar Engineers Association (WBSEA) and are the harbingers of change. Like Norti Bai of the Social Work Research Centre (SWRC) at Tilonia in Rajasthan, who maps on computers...

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