Solar Mamas

 
It is common that we combine the term feminism with cultural, social, political and economical issues, but it is rarely that we relate feminism to nature and ecology.
 
Thanks to the French writer Françoise d’Eaubonne in her book, Le Féminisme ou la Mort (1974), she started this whole connection and pointed out the vital role of women towards nature.
 
Women’s role cannot be ignored, not anymore. They raise generations as they are in charge -most times- of spreading awareness among their kids and passing values to them; to guide them on how to use water, to plant flowers,  not to cut trees, to value the environment and much more. This is why the role of women in environmental matters should not be neglected.
 
Bunker Roy, an Indian social activist and educator who founded the Barefoot College, refused to give up on women; he acknowledged their role in environment so he went personally to convince women from all over the world to participate in his new project of turning illiterate women into solar engineers.
 
“Solar Mamas” is a documentary that shows the lives of two Jordanian women who come from the village to join the other women in this project. Convincing two illiterate Bedouin women to travel to India and leave their husbands and families behind is never an easy mission, but Bunker Roy did it; he convinced their families to let them travel to India. These two women who thought of solar energy as a path to change their lives and the lives of other women, and have decided they are leaving and will come back to make a difference.
 
Rafee’a Anad, 32 years old, was fed up from the life that had been forced on her, a life without education, a job or a purpose, so she decided to join this program to be part of something bigger; she hoped to come home with a project in hand to make a difference.
 
Rafee’a went to India against her husband’s will, leaving her daughters with her mother since their father would rarely visit them as he is busy with his first family. Rafee’a and Umm Bader went on this journey along with Umm Bader’s son Bader, since women from that village are not allowed to travel alone without a male family member.
 
After Rafee’a left to India, her husband started calling constantly trying to find excuses to make her come back. When he gave up on all excuses that didn’t seem to get to her, he used the big word threat, divorce.
Yes, he threatened to divorce her and to take away her daughters if she didn’t go back. With her heart full of sadness, anger, and a million other feelings that we would not understand, she packed and went home.
But this woman turned out to be stronger than anyone of us thought, she went back to Jordan but only to fight for her right to finish the internship, and so she did.
 
With her determination she went back to India and joined her new friends at the workshop, after fighting for her right to travel, learn, to become a solar engineer and to make a difference in her daughters’ lives and the lives of the women in the village.
 
Rafee’a did it… Umm Bader did it…
 
They came back to the village as solar engineers carrying hopes and so much to teach to all of the women in the village who were so excited to welcome the engineers back and to have the chance to learn from them.
 
Sadly, these successful women did not find the right funding for their project, but Rafee’a will not give up, and neither will Umm Bader, even after her son Bader stole some circuits and pieces (worth 15000$) from the workshop and sold them to the black market as Mr. Raouf Dabbas, the senior advisor to the Ministry of Environment in Jordan claimed. Even after her husband divorced her because he refused to believe that Umm Bader would get a job and actually work, she still won’t give up.
 
Umm Bader stands now hand in hand with Rafee’a hoping for this project to see the light.
To learn more about the documentary and watch a trailer subtitled in English, kindly visit http://www.itvs.org/films/solar-mamas
 
Published in BROAD Feminist and Social Justice Magazine / Chicago – May 2013

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