A brave woman who showed commitment, determination and who wanted to fight for her right to have a better life for her family and her community, is Rafea Um Gomar, a Jordanian woman from a rural village in Jordan, who managed to turn her dream into a reality. This woman, mother of four, was able to swim against the tide of conservative traditions and understand that non-conformity, innovation and commitment, although difficult at times, can produce a sustainable change.
Rafea Um Gomar did not only suffer from poverty and isolation. She also faced persecution by her own family, just because she wanted pursue her dream of becoming a solar engineer. All she dreamt of was to be educated, challenge traditional gender roles, and help her own community with skills that would help her and everyone in her village have a better life. She had a different plan, a different vision, a different life goal than a regular woman in the village.
As soon as Rafea Um Gomar was selected to take part in a program offered by Barefoot College in India, she knew that her life will never be the same. The program she took part in gathers women from rural areas, with little or no education, to receive training to become solar engineers. During the program, these women, including Rafea, were given the opportunity to develop the right skills that would help them influence their communities by using clean and updated technology to power up households that have never had electricity, stimulate women’s role in the local economy, and most of all, to reduce poverty.
Despite the struggles with her family who opposed her decision to attend the Barefoot College program in India, Rafea Um Gomar was able to complete her course and go back to her village, empowered with valuable skills and ideas to make her village which is one of the most isolated and inaccessible places, self-reliant, where women can actively participate to improve their socio-economic situation. This outstanding woman was able to set up 80 solar installations providing electricity in her village. In addition, she is now the first female solar engineer in the Kingdom of Jordan.
“My next goal is to open a solar energy training center where all women from other villages and maybe even from other countries can learn the same skills I have learned and use the same technology” says Rafea Um Gomar. “I want all women to break the social taboo according to which women must stay home. They have right to be educated, learn as much as they can, trust in their potential and be confident.”