Turning grandmothers into engineers

Published on Tuesday, 3 May 2016

“It's a kind of miracle, this process of learning by doing, the exchanging of their experiences with other women from around the world. They go back empowered, strong, full of energy and passion”

– Maria Cristina Papetti, Enel Head of Sustainability and Practice Sharing

In Latin America, Enel has partnered with Barefoot College to bring light, skills and jobs to isolated communities.

Since 1989, Barefoot College has helped to electrify 1,000 villages on the continent, reaching 450,000 people. Launched in 2012, Enel's partnership with the College connects underprivileged women in isolated communities to expert educators and modern equipment so they can install and maintain solar power systems at home.

“Women of all ages - even grandmothers - travel to India to learn to fit and manage solar panels”

The program exposes women of all ages - even grandmothers - to a life changing education and experience. Enel funds the women's training, taking them to India to learn how to fit and manage solar panels. When they return home, these women don't just connect their communities to solar power, they also pass their knowledge on to others, multiplying their impact and accelerating access to clean and reliable electricity.

The basic solar kits the women build are enough to power four lights, charge a mobile phone and power a portable solar lantern. More than 3,500 solar kits have been built and distributed through the programme in Latin America alone, benefiting 19,000 people.

Women's education is key to the sustainability of the Barefoot College partnership, making sure women have the skills to run new solar systems throughout the 20 year useful life of the technology.

Powering equality through education

Barefoot College does more than simply address issues of poverty through job creation, or sustainable power supply through solar power systems. Focussed on women, the College also promotes gender equality.

The College has 40 years' experience working with communities to achieve sustainable growth. By giving women the skills to successfully carry out work in roles usually offered to men, the partnership makes sure growth is sustainable for all.

The impact of the partnership on women's lives can be seen in the 2013 documentary 'Bring the Sun Home', produced by by Chiara Andrich and Giovanni Pellegrini.