This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Tilonia Barefoot College: Redefining Social Entrepreneurship And Sustainable Development

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Shreyasi Ghosh:

A small town called Tilonia in Ajmer in Rajasthan is in global spotlight for the extraordinary work that started here in 1972, lifting thousands of illiterate impoverished villagers out of their misery and helping them lead a life of dignity, that grants them access to basic amenities of survival and more. The Barefoot College which was founded in 1972 by Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy is the beacon of hope in these dark and difficult times for rural India. The organization has made the villagers aware of their own potential and problem-solving skills, and is making them socially and economically self-reliant every day.

Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, a Doon School and St. Stephen’s College alumnus, had it in him to make a successful career in civil service or in the private sector. But instead of looking for a cushy job in the cities he decided to contribute his skills and knowledge to nation-building efforts.

Thus, in 1972, the Barefoot College was born out of the ideas and enthusiasm of educated social activists and urban professionals. They had themselves registered as the Social Work and Research Centre which eventually came to be known as the Barefoot College. They leased about forty-five acres of government land along with some buildings in the former Tuberculosis Sanatorium from the government and started the college with about 2000 villagers.

The aim was simple and direct — make the villagers aware of the fact that theoretical education is not necessary to solve their problems. The solution to their problems lies within themselves in their villages. The college has dispelled the notion that theoretical educational qualifications are a must to make the villages a better place to live in. It has imparted the necessary practical education to the villagers, thereby empowering them to solve their own problems without depending on external aid, which is sometimes difficult to obtain and often gets delayed in coming.

The Barefoot College got its name from the term ‘barefoot professionals’ coined by Bunker Roy himself who realized the potentials of the barefoot marginalized sections of the society. Being a social entrepreneur who believed in sustainable development and self-sufficiency, he felt the need to teach people to use their traditional knowledge to create solutions for their problems. The building itself was constructed by barefoot architects and workers who made use of their traditional knowledge of construction works.

The college has taught and helped the villagers to find solutions to their energy and power requirements, problems like lack of education, healthcare and clean water. It has various programs which are run by the villagers themselves and act as a source of income for the entire rural community. The villagers have been taught to identify their own problems and find a solution; the college provides them with the necessary education, funds and facilities to implement them.

Education

The college focuses on education but instead of the usual classroom education it believes in imparting a more practical and hands-on education that will help the students to learn about the environment, their problems and various political and socio-economic aspects that affect their lives. The aim of the education system is to make the villagers literate and at the same time, make them realize that they are needed in their villages to work for their development and welfare and help them gain practical knowledge and skills. The teachers are chosen from the rural communities themselves with the belief that rural children can connect with someone from their own background easily than a city-bred scholar with no insight to their conditions and requirements. It also helps to create employment for the villagers.

Rainwater Harvesting

The college has also taught the villagers rainwater harvesting in order to provide fresh and hygienic drinking water for themselves and their livestock. The villagers easily make use of traditional knowledge of rain water collection to meet their needs.

Solar Electrification of villages

The Barefoot College has won international acclaim for its effort to make solar electrification technology accessible to the common people. Hundreds of illiterate people have learnt the methods of producing solar electricity and are lighting up hundreds of homes in the remotest of the remote villages. The villagers are first made aware of the benefits of eco-friendly solar energy. A few members of the community are trained in solar electrification process who in turn spread the knowledge. The villagers are encouraged to pay in cash or kind, whatever they can afford, to run the solar energy production units- this way they feel a sense of ownership and are responsible for ensuring the installation, maintenance, repair and proper running of the unit. The process is not initiated till the villagers who have agreed to obtain solar powers pay for it. Their money goes into paying for spare parts, factory rents, batteries, salaries for the solar engineers etc. This creates new employments for the villagers without relying on outside help.

The college especially encourages women to take part in this process to empower them economically. Hundreds of illiterate women from different underdeveloped parts of the world travel to Tilonia every year to learn the process of solar electrification and use this knowledge in their own villages. This is sustainable development in its true form- the villagers can solve their own problems instead of having freebies handed out to them by patrons, social workers, charities and the government. The solutions are handed down from generation to generation for future implementations.

Healthcare facilities

The college has been providing basic healthcare facilities to about 150 villages and creating social awareness about health and hygiene. Health programs have been introduced to equip thousands of villagers with basic healthcare knowledge. It also creates a team of Barefoot communicators who in turn make people aware of issues of mother and child care, importance of nutrition and clean water, oral health, immunization, HIV/AIDs, family planning, cough and cold and other usual health problems. Women are trained in midwifery too.

Encouraging Traditional means of livelihood

Thousands of traditional craftsmen have been encouraged to engage in their trade using their traditional skills. The potters, weavers, carpenters, builders, farmers etc get help from the college to upgrade their skills, and their products like clothes, toys, metal and woodworks, paper products, rugs, furniture etc are sold in national as well as international markets. Friends of Tilonia is an organization that collaborates with the craftsmen and help to increase their sales and marketing globally. This has solved the problem of unemployment and migration of youth to the cities for job opportunities. The people, especially women, can now generate their own income sitting at home and using knowledge handed down to them by their fathers.

Women’s Empowerment

The Barefoot College has especially won laurels for its efforts of women’s emancipation. Today hundreds of women have specialized as solar engineers, thereby lighting their homes and in turn, their villages. They are trained in construction works, metal works, healthcare, water testing, handicrafts etc so that they are financially independent and can live a life of dignity. Women who were so long deprived of education are encouraged to attend night schools where they learn practical skills and gather enough knowledge to use them for the betterment of their villages. They train as midwives in the college and are responsible for creating awareness about basic health amongst the villages’ women. They are encouraged to break barriers and report occurrences of rape, abuse, gender and caste-based discriminations.

Ideology and Approach

The Barefoot College thrives on the fact that it is run by the people who are its intended beneficiaries. No outside interference in the name of aid is allowed to disrupt the development process. No government initiative or undertaking, no expensive and elaborate surveys, no false promises could delay or stunt the development process. But contributions from the government, international funds, private funds, corporate or individual sponsors are often used to implement the Barefoot model in other countries. The money goes into education, solar power generation, computer education for women, construction of rainwater harvesting tanks etc.

Every individual, irrespective of his/her caste, religion, gender, age, receives education and employment opportunities. It is mandatory for everyone to eat together in a common dining hall, sitting on the floor and wash their own dishes. In a society where casteism and untouchability are rampant, it is indeed unthinkable. Everybody’s opinion is taken into account and considered when important decisions are being undertaken. The villagers are encouraged to lead a simple and balanced life.

When the project took off, it was ridiculed as ‘impractical’ and it was predicted that it won’t last long. The Barefoot College has gone through a vortex of changes in its management and administration to adapt itself to the changing needs of the villagers in a rapidly changing world. Hardships were met with and tackled. There had been periods of despair and hopelessness when various projects ran into troubles or met with stiff resistance.

But the college ushered in hope amongst the thousands of exploited toiling rural masses of India and introduced the world to a new and sustainable way of rural development and fighting poverty. It involves the ideas and efforts of rural communities thus making them realize that they too are an important part of the society and can change the world for the better.

Tilonia Barefoot College nudges us to look beyond the comfortable environs of our plush air-conditioned houses and cushy jobs and do our bid for the society so that the world becomes a much better place to live in. It makes us feel that all is not lost in this world- there is still hope for a better future.

Visit The Barefoot College website here.

Img: http://www.bustler.net/index.php/article/the_2010_buckminster_fuller_challenge_finalists/

You must be to comment.
  1. Deepak

    great … inspiring . 

  2. Roger Hamilton

    You know very well about social entrepreneurship, hu likes it.
    You are great in it.but i know about something social entrepreneurs
    is this. After the word ‘Social Entrepreneur’ Central 1900s and used
    to describe any of the trade which is the principles of some social
    objective is to use the full or some social change, but in domestic
    or abroad has been imposed. Irs. gov according the master file, about
    727.000 registered more than for donation tax deductible gifts, majority,
    almost 55%, for 2009 are $0 as income earned in the Report entitled to
    get.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Ashutosh Kashyap

By Earth Day Network India

By Manash Upadhyaya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below