The Barefoot College, founded in 1972 in India, combines traditional ‘barefoot’ knowledge and demystified modern skills, creating tools for people essentially ‘written off’ by urban society.
The Barefoot College works with marginalized, exploited and impoverished rural poor, living on less than $1 a day, and lifts them over the poverty line with dignity and self respect.
I found out about this work from Victor Hunter, Chairperson of the Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Housing (FISH) who like Bunker Roy, founder of the Barefoot College, sees grandmothers leading sustainable community development.
NB Grandmothers have solar electrified hundreds of villages in India, Afghanistan and Africa after being shown how by the Barefoot College.
The decentralised ‘Barefoot approach’ is really a simple message that can easily be replicated by the poor and for the poor in neglected and underprivileged communities anywhere in the world.
Gandhi believed that sophisticated technology should be used in rural India BUT in the hands and in control of the poor communities so that they are not dependent or exploited.
His central belief was that the knowledge, skills and wisdom found in villages should be used for its development before getting skills from outside.
The Barefoot College has transferred the access, control, management and ownership of sophisticated technologies to rural men and women, who can barely read and write.
Gandhi believed in the equality of women. The Barefoot College has struggled to train village women, in areas that have traditionally been dominated by men.
Since 1972, more than 6,525 unassuming housewives, mothers and grandmothers, midwives, farmers, daily wage labourers and small shopkeepers, who represent the profile of rural women from poor agricultural communities, have been trained as:
It seems to me that these communities and the Barefoot College are being inspired and led by a ‘possible future’, they are refusing to remain bogged down in their past.
Is there an Australian application for the Barefoot College?