Barefoot College International,Guatemala - PEF
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Barefoot College International, Guatemala
Empowering Rural Women and Bringing Solar Energy to Off-Grid Communities
The Puma Energy Foundation is proud to collaborate with Barefoot College International (BCI) to create lasting change in Quiché, Guatemala. As an experienced non-profit organization, BCI has made significant strides in providing vocational and skills development opportunities to rural women and girls from the most marginalized communities worldwide. BCI's work spans across 90 countries in the Global South, with Vocational Training Centres in Senegal, Zanzibar, India, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, and most recently, Guatemala with another centre due to open in Fiji in 2023. Through their innovative Solar programme, BCI empowers rural women by training them as solar engineers and community leaders. These women are often colloquially known as ‘Solar Mamas’. Through the programme, they acquire the skills to build and assemble solar home lighting systems from scratch, enabling them to install and maintain sustainable energy solutions within their communities.
Quiché is a remote, mountainous, and marginalized area of Guatemala, heavily affected by the internal armed conflict that ended in 1996. As one of the hardest-hit regions during this tumultuous period, the population, primarily comprising the Ixil Mayan ethnic group, continues to face significant challenges, including lack of access to energy, education, and employment opportunities.
The Puma Energy Foundation partners with BCI on several activities to address these issues. In a residential training program at BCI’s Training Centre in Quiché, 24 indigenous, non-formally educated local women acquire comprehensive solar engineering skills along with BCI´s empowerment training known as Enriche. Participating women will become skilled Solar Engineers and learn leadership skills to act as change agents in their families and communities.
In addition, solar committees are being formed within communities to manage compensation for the newly trained women Solar Engineers, for installing and maintaining solar systems in their communities. The goal is to create sustainable structures that ensure fair remuneration and ongoing support for the women Solar Engineers.
Furthermore, this collaboration will provide clean energy access for 600 off-grid rural families through home solar systems built and installed by the women Solar Engineers, benefiting approximately 3,600 individuals. By replacing harmful and unsustainable energy sources such as kerosene, candles, and firewood, the initiative contributes to health and development benefits while promoting climate resilience in the post-conflict Ixil indigenous region of Guatemala.
By enabling women to become solar engineers and community leaders, this collaboration fosters empowerment, sustainable development, and a brighter future for all involved.
Picture credits: Barefoot College International (or BCI)