Akbar Meets Indian Delegation Over Plan
Fiji’s plan to build a regional Barefoot College is taking shape through discussions held in Suva last week between the founder of the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India, Professor Bunker Roy and the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar.
Accompanying Professor Roy on this visit to Fiji is the chief executive officer of Barefoot College International, Meagan Fallone.
During their meeting last Thursday, Ms Akbar met Professor Roy and Ms Fallone along with the key local stakeholders to discuss the way forward on building the Fijian Barefoot College Pacific.
Also present during the meeting was the acting Indian High Commissioner to Fiji, Jagdev Singh Rana and representatives from UNDP and UN Women.
Ms Akbar and Prof Roy travelled to the Northern Division yesterday to scope a suitable site for the construction of the college.
“The multi-stakeholder meeting has set out a project implementation plan, which includes the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the Government of Fiji and Barefoot College International to formalise our partnership. The Ministry will lead this important project. The submission of a project concept note will be formalised through diplomatic channels with a goal of bringing the government of India fully on board.
“The next step is for the Ministry to facilitate a project proposal to the Indian government. Following which, we will have the stakeholders’ consultation on the project before presenting the design and implementation plans to the Cabinet for approval,” Minister Akbar elaborated.
Ms 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.
“This initiative has been mooted through the strengthened bilateral ties and friendship between the Government of Fiji and the government of India. In 2012, ten solar grandmothers from Fiji were sent to the Barefoot College in India, for six months training in solar electrification courtesy of India government’s ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Co-operation) programme.
“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 once used to be male dominated,” Ms Akbar said.
In 2012, UNDP Small Grants and UNWOMEN together with FLAMMA and 5 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 demonstrated impacts of demystifying and introducing modern technologies in the rural areas through provision of rain water harvesting, solar electrification and livelihood development.
Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation