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    About the Organization

    Barefoot College was founded more than 50 years ago in Tilonia, India by Bunker Roy. The College’s mission is to improve the lives of people across the world by providing areas of extreme rural poverty with access to basic needs like safe drinking water, clean light, basic education and dignified livelihoods. Barefoot believes in the lifestyle and approach of Mahatma Gandhi in reaching those he called “The Last Man and Woman in India” who have the right to live a life of dignity and respect with timely community support and freedom from hunger and exploitation.

    The ‘Barefoot solutions’ are broadly categorized into delivery by and through rural women of Access to Renewable Energy, Education, Women’s Economic & Digital Participation, Women’s Wellness and Water Management. Barefoot College is committed to empowering women as change agents, entrepreneurs, environmental stewards and leaders in their communities. The organization believes that placing women at the heart of the development and design process is the most reliable and effective way to pass on the wisdom, knowledge, and skills that all rural poor communities already possess, and which are so often undervalued and under-utilized.

    Barefoot College engages in building confidence and competence in individuals and entire communities through a partnership model, bringing about large-scale shifts in values and sustainable quality of life enhancement. The college is known for its ability to bring about systems change and policy change through innovative partnerships.

    Poor villagers' skills and resourcefulness are often overlooked as potential drivers of community development.

    Barefoot College trains illiterate villagers to build and maintain systems such as solar electricity, water and sanitation, schools, and clinics.

    “Barefoot” teachers, doctors, health workers, business owners, and service workers improve their own lives and those of their communities.

    More than 80 communities in seven countries benefit.

    Ambition for Change

    Communities in poor countries around the world implement technologies and practices that enhance economic, social, and environmental well-being. Government institutions are built for technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skill building for women without a formal education.

    Path to Scale

    Open Source Replication (low cost/no cost): New Barefoot Colleges are developed and led by individuals trained at the home campus in India. So far, 23 such Barefoot Colleges have been established in 13 states of India.

    Skoll Awardee
    Bunker Roy

    Founder and Director, Barefoot College

    As a young post-graduate student from a privileged urban background, Bunker Roy volunteered to spend the summer working with famine affected people in one of India’s poorest states. This experience changed him, and he committed himself to fighting poverty and inequality. In 1972, he founded the Social Work and Research Centre (now known as Barefoot College) to demystify technology and put it to good use in the hands of poor communities. This radically simple approach to ending poverty, by tapping the wisdom, skills, and resourcefulness of people experiencing poverty, is less expensive and more successful than approaches that rely on external experts. Barefoot College recruits people experiencing poverty and illiteracy and trains them to build and maintain life-changing technologies and systems such as solar electricity, water and sanitation, schools and clinics, artisan businesses and community engagement.

    Impact & Accomplishments
    • Since 1997, Barefoot College has cumulatively trained nearly 3,000 Solar Mamas from 96 countries. Together they have solar electrified 56,000 houses, fabricated 28,000 solar lanterns, and fully solar electrified 1300 non electrified villages.
    • More than 66,000 individuals have trained and worked as Barefoot teachers, health workers, solar and water engineers, mechanics, designers, builders, carpenters, computer technicians and instructors, accountants, recycling professionals, business owners, and service workers. Barefoot College’s education programs have cumulatively graduated more than 100,000 students, and its upskilling programs have trained 2,200 artisans and weavers
    • More than 14,000 grassroots teachers after participating in our comprehensive teachers-training program, have been hired into the State School system.
    • Since the model's inception, Barefoot College has educated more than 80,000 childrenat least 55 percent girls. More than 40 percent have integrated back into state secondary schools.
    Bunker Roy
    Founder and Director, Barefoot College
    Ellen Fish
    Director Friends of Tilonia, Barefoot College
    In the News
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