In 2006, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim made her TED Prize wish: that for one day, the world would band together for the shared experience of watching film. “As the world is getting smaller,” she said onstage, “it becomes more and more important that we learn each other’s dance moves, that we meet each other, that we get to know each other, that we are able to figure out a way to cross borders, to understand each other.”
Now, Noujaim’s newest film, Solar Mamas, follows Rafea, a Jordanian woman who attends the revolutionary Barefoot College in India.
As the school’s founder, Bunker Roy, explained in his 2011 TEDTalk, “Learning from a barefoot movement,” the college teaches rural women and men — many of them illiterate — to become engineers, artisans and doctors. There are only two rules for enrollment — you must be poor to attend and you must take your learnings home to your village. Rafea is chosen, along with 26 other mothers and grandmothers, to get a free education in solar engineering.
But while Solar Mamas gives an insider’s glimpse at Bunker Roy’s Barefoot College, it also examines a bigger question: “Are women better at getting out of poverty than men?”
Solar Mamas is part of “Why Poverty?,” a multimedia film festival featuring 30 short and 8 full-length movies from filmmakers across the globe. Produced by the nonprofit Steps International and funded in part by the Gates Foundation and Skoll Foundation, the series will air on TV channels around the world, as well as online, with the goal of reaching 500 million people.
“Why Poverty?” short films are being released all through November. Meanwhile, the initiative’s eight longer offerings will air beginning on November 25. Check WhyPoverty.net for the broadcast schedule to see when Solar Mamas is playing in your country.