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Plans underway for a Regional Barefoot College in Fiji

Fiji’s plans to build a Regional Barefoot College is taking shape through discussions that were held this week between the founder of the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India (Professor Bunker Roy) and the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Rosy Akbar. Accompanying Professor Roy on this visit to Fiji is the CEO […]

Peni Shute

February 8, 2016 10:14 am

Fiji’s plans to build a Regional Barefoot College is taking shape through discussions that were held this week between the founder of the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India (Professor Bunker Roy) and the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Rosy Akbar.

Accompanying Professor Roy on this visit to Fiji is the CEO of Barefoot College International, Meagan Fallone.

During a meeting held  this week at the Ministry’s headquarters in Suva, Minister Akbar met with Mr Bunker Roy and Ms Fallone along with the key local stakeholders to discuss the way forward on building Fiji’s Barefoot College Pacific. Also present at the meeting was the Acting Indian High Commissioner to Fiji, Jagdev Singh Rana and  representatives from UNDP and UN Women.

Minister Akbar and Prof Bunker Roy travelled to the northern division yesterday to look at suitable sites for the construction of Fiji’s Barefoot College.

“The multi-stakeholder meeting has set out a project implementation plan, which includes the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the Fijian government and Barefoot College International to formalize our partnership. The Ministry of Women will lead this important project. The submission of a project concept note will be formalized through diplomatic channels with the focus of bringing the Government of India on board,” Minister Akbar said.

“The next step is for the Ministry to facilitate a project proposal to the Indian Government. Following which, we will have the stakeholder’s consultation on the project before presenting the design and implementation plans to Cabinet for approval.”

Minister Akbar reiterated that establishing Barefoot College Pacific is a significant development project for Fiji.

“This project will create a range of vocational training opportunities for regional countries as well, as it will serve to train women solar engineers in the Pacific. This is aligned with the Indian Government’s commitment to contribute to renewable energy for rural communities in Fiji and for the entire Pacific region. The Ministry will work closely with the Barefoot College team to ensure that the plan for Fiji to have a Barefoot College is realized by 2017,” Minister Akbar said.

“This initiative has been mooted through the strengthened bilateral ties and friendship between the Fijian Government and the Government of India. In 2012, 10 solar grandmothers from Fiji were sent to the Barefoot College in India, for 6 months training in solar electrification courtesy of the India Government’s ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation) program.”

“These engineers have also provided solar electrification skills training to the women and youths in their villages. This project is also a way for the Ministry to promote women into those employment sectors that were  previously male dominated.”

In 2012, UNDP Small Grants and UN WOMEN together with FLAMMA and five Indigenous NGO organisations (Non-Government Organisations) supported the installation of more than 350 households to be solar electrified through this initiative.

For 40 years, the Barefoot College has assisted in the introduction of modern technologies in rural areas through provision of rain water harvesting, solar electrification and livelihood development.

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