The barefoot women of Malawi, also called Malawi’s engineers are a group of eight women who had the chance to receive a training in solar engineering . They received their training at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India. The group of women spent six months in the Barefoot College learning how to build and wire electrical components. After their training they returned to their village and with the skills that they had learned. They installed solar systems for the less well off of the rural regions of Malawi. In Malawi, only 10 % of the country is electrified. Solar energy holds a strong power and potential for Malawi to move from a centralized to a decentralized power generation. Making the power renewable, sustainable, independent and locally appropriate for specific types of electrification. Some of their names are, Emily Kamwendo, Dines Msampha, Alinati Patison, Elina Livitiko , Lines Nguluwe, and Patison. Initially many neighbors doubted that the women would complete the course since it required them to leave their loved one behind. Yet, they were all successfully able to complete the training.The women now help their village is numerous ways. One of them helps her husband to complete his farming tasks once the village gets dark. Thanks to the addition of new solar lightning.In the village women are expected to stay at home, to cook for the family and make sure that the kids are getting fed. Now the mentalities are shifting and so is the perception that people have on women. Lines Nguluwe opened a charging mobile phones business helping the neighbors who do not have access to electricity and preventing them from having to go to the nearest town. Some of the women receive a monthly salary from the neighborhood for maintaining the solar lighting system.
Emily and her husband built a solar powered lantern to allow her children to study even
when the sun comes down. Emily also stated that women who did the solar engineering training were treateddifferently by the rest of the community. Initially most of these women had not been able to complete their studies. But becoming solar engineers completely changed their future and opened them to possibilities that they would have never been able to imagine . Most of them initially worked farming cassava, tobacco and maize. For Patison for instance, having a solar lightning system means that she is able to focus on the growth of her business .Their level of ambition has changed drastically. Emily Kamwendo’s husband, Stefano Simion was initially skeptical about her training with VSO’s Solar Mamas project. But he is now able to appreciate her help to the community, as they maintain a solar panel on the roof of their house.
Dines Msampha is a 42 year old single mother and thanks to the training she was able to double her income. She not only receives a wage for maintaining the neighborhoods solar lightning , she is also able thanks to the solar lantern to work longer hours in order to maintain her business. She mentioned that she did not initially believe that women like her could build a house. But she managed to build one without having a husband. She is now aware of the amount of things that she can do alone. Dines trained as a solar engineer and her children Eston Msampha has been able to study in the dark ever since. The women have now built a workshop at Chatsala primary school in Malawi. They have also installed a solar powered lamp on the street. Their next step would be to be able to see solar electricity powering irrigation and grain mills.