Malaysia is a country that is rapidly developing with new infrastructure technologies. We have new initiatives by the government such as the push for e-Wallets. However, it seems that some of our communities are being left behind. While we in the city benefit so much from this growth, there are still villages in Sabah that don’t even have electricity. Wanting to take matters into their own hands, Solar Mamas are empowering themselves with knowledge and skills to bring electricity.
But who are the Solar Mamas and what are they doing?
Firstly, the Solar Mamas are a group of women from different villages in Sabah who enrol in the Barefoot Solar Project. These women are illiterate grandmothers who have struggled without electricity basically their whole lives.
In fact, the latest grandmother in the group, Inggai Sungging, had to drop out of school at Standard 5. This is because she was unable to study once the sun had set as there was no other source of proper light.
What these women have in common is that they don’t want the younger generations to suffer the same fate. Therefore, they travel to Tilonia, India to study at Barefoot College.
Here they are taught practical knowledge and skills which includes installing and maintaining the equipment. Moreover, because these women are illiterate, Barefoot College uses alphabets and colours to teach them.
As of now, there are only four Solar Mamas from different villages that are powering their Kampung. Each month they collect money from the villagers to use for maintaining the equipment. With this, about 100 houses will now have access to electricity.
The reason that the Barefoot Solar Project is empowering grandmothers is because they are less likely to leave. Meaning that they will continue to stay in the village which allows for the solar system to run for a longer time.
It is really amazing what these grandmothers do for their village. After all, it isn’t an easy task to travel to a foreign country for five months to learn a new technical skill. Especially since they are illiterate.
But they do it because they want the villagers to have proper access to electricity. This alone will help to keep children and school.