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Oct 21, 2003
Poor and female, but smart

Meet Kausalya of Buharu village in Ajmer District of Rajasthan. She is 19 , a ‘solar engineer’ and an effective troubleshooter. At 13 she was elected ‘Prime Minister’ in the Bal Sansad of the 50 schools in her district. In the three years she was in ‘power’ her ‘cabinet’ solved many issues ranging from providing electricity to a village school, to solving a land dispute between two local sarpanchs. Impressed? But this is not all, when her parents discontinued her school, she went and trained as a solar engineer. Her parents then sent her to her husband’s home in Pandwa village [-- she had been married very early] but her spirit was not deterred. She went on to tackle the problems of her new home by installing solar lights and a new water pipe line. And above all she gained the respect of her in-laws and even her husband. ‘He is very proud of me though he will never say it,” says Kausalya with a smile.

Ritma Bharati is 26 and belongs to West Champaran District in Bihar. Her village, Buharva had no electricity. All activities stopped at sunset including at the shop her husband runs. She heard about solar energy workshops and decided she wanted to attend one. In spite of her mother in law’s disapproval she took off and six months later returned with 80 solar lanterns. She has trained many villagers and today over 75 lanterns are being used to run schools, shops and medical centres late into the evening.

Gulab Devi is 45 and illiterate but talks about circuits and transformers as other women would of sewing or cooking. Ask her what she does and she will answer with pride that she makes electronic circuits for solar lighting panels, and before you start wondering if you heard wrong, she adds that she can install and maintain hand pumps, water tanks and pipelines. Gulab is the sole bread earner for her four children and ailing husband who has not had a job in the 24 years of their marriage.

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