Segments in this Video

Bedouin Women in Poverty (02:11)


32 year-old Rafea Anad lives in a tent in Jordan with her four daughters. Girls can only go to school until age 10; she hopes to participate in a project to help educate women in her community.

Education Program for Bedouin Women (04:16)

Barefoot College director Bunker Roy tries to convince illiterate Bedouin women to take part in a solar engineering program. Rafea and Umm Badr agree to leave their children and travel to India for six months.

Leaving Jordan (01:49)

Minister of Environment Raouf Dabbas speaks to journalists about working with India's Barefoot College to train villagers in solar engineering. Umm Badr's son chaperones her and Rafea to India; Rafea’s husband isn’t supportive of the project.

Arrival in India (01:35)

27 rural women from all over the world are selected to participate in the Barefoot College solar engineering program. Rafea tries to communicate with a representative on the drive to the campus.

Meeting Program Participants (01:07)

Rafea and Umm Badr introduce themselves to women from Kenya and Burkina Faso after arriving at India's Barefoot College.

Language Challenges (02:07)

Instructor Guriji leads the first class at India's Barefoot College. Women learn the names of tools they'll use to assemble solar energy systems; Rafea and Umm Badr struggle to understand English.

Homesick (01:09)

Students at India's Barefoot College line up to call home. Rafea talks to her family in Jordan; her husband hasn't visited her children yet.

Literacy Challenges (02:11)

Uneducated students at India's Barefoot College learn engineering concepts in English. Nesui Asui is grateful her husband allowed her to travel abroad from Kenya. Rafea's husband calls from Jordan and speaks to Umm Badr's son.

Basic Solar Engineering (01:13)

Rafea, Umm Badr and other women learn how to power electricity at India's Barefoot College. They play with local children and miss their own in Jordan.

Coerced into Returning Home (04:59)

After a month at India's Barefoot College, Rafea returns to Jordan because her husband has threatened to divorce her and take away her children. Raouf Dabbas offers to send her back if she can find a solution.

Sharing New Knowledge (02:21)

Rafea explains to her village leader that solar energy is used for cooking and electricity in India—while they still rely on gas heat in Jordan. She tells her husband she'll return to Barefoot College if he doesn't behave.

Challenging Bedouin Tradition (03:36)

A student at India's Barefoot College explains the engineering process as she works on a solar panel. Rafea tries to convince her Jordanian family that the program will allow her to train others and lift the village out of poverty.

Commitment to Education (05:29)

Rafea's husband threatens to leave her if she returns to India. Environmental Minister Raouf Abbas finally convinces him to let her finish the solar technology program, promising to give her a house if she is successful.

Marital Tension (02:47)

Rafea's husband threatens to take back his promise that he'll care for their children while she studies solar technology in India. She says she'll go anyway—a decision supported by a Bedouin village elder.

Taking Control (02:24)

Ignoring her husband's threat that he'll take away her children, Rafea returns to India to finish her studies. Other women in the solar technology program are happy to see her again.

Relearning Circuits (02:31)

Rafea quickly catches up to her classmates at India's Barefoot College solar engineering program. Umm Badr's son says that he’ll run their company back in Jordan—but the women protest.

Barefoot College Final Exam (02:23)

Students are given one hour to assemble electric circuits for solar power at the end of their six-month program. Rafea finishes first in the class.

Graduation and Leaving (01:56)

Women celebrate becoming solar engineers at India's Barefoot College. Rafea and Umm Badr reflect on returning to their Bedouin lives in Jordan and bid tearful goodbyes to their international friends.

Return to Jordan (01:59)

Rafea and Umm Badr speak with officials about their solar engineering training in India; Raouf Abbas is pleased. The women receive a celebratory welcome in their village.

Adjusting to Village Life (02:34)

Rafea speaks to her community about receiving solar technology training in India—a unique opportunity for an uneducated Bedouin woman. Her family watches as she appears on a Jordanian news broadcast.

Negotiating in Bedouin Culture (03:11)

Rafea and Umm Bard meet with village elders to organize a solar training program with the Jordanian Sustainable Development Association. Rafea's husband doesn't want her to continue the project; her sister urges her to ignore him.

Recruiting Bedouin Trainees (01:52)

Rafea introduces basic solar engineering concepts to other women in her village. Attracted by employment and educational opportunities, some agree to negotiate with their husbands.

Bringing Solar Power to Villages (01:36)

Six months after India's Barefoot College program, equipment arrives in Burkina Faso, Colombia, Kenya and Jordan. Rafea installs solar panels on her new roof—continuing the project despite obstacles from men in the Bedouin village.

Credits: Solar Mamas: Are Women Better at Getting Out of Poverty Than Men?—Why Poverty? (00:38)

Credits: Solar Mamas: Are Women Better at Getting Out of Poverty Than Men?—Why Poverty?

Short Film: "The Thread" (06:30)

Blanca, of Cerro Pelado, Uruguay used a micro-loan to start a dress rental business.Her business helped the family stay financially solvent; she helps a young woman prepare for her quinceanera.

Credits: The Thread (00:17)

Credits: The Thread

Short Film: "A Beggar's Loan" (03:43)

Bangladeshi woman Chabna had to beg after her husband died. Through a micro credit she began selling yogurt in local villages; nearly 8.5 million women have received non-collateral loans since the Grameen Bank was founded in 1976.

Credits: "A Beggar's Loan" (00:34)

Credits: A Beggar's Loan

Short Film: "Mama Illegal" (06:58)

Facing 80% rural unemployment, many families are split as parents immigrate to other European countries for work. After working illegally in Austria for two years, Aurica returns to Moldova. She decides to leave again to continue financing her family's new home, but her husband commits suicide.

Credits: "Mama Illegal" (00:16)

Credits: "Mama Illegal"

Short Film: "Poop on Poverty" (04:43)

Puskhar, India hosts the world's largest camel fair every winter. Indira Bhatt explains that local women collect camel dung to use as cooking fuel—an activity juxtaposed with Western tourists asking to photograph them.

Credits: Poop on Poverty (00:19)

Credits: Poop on Poverty

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Solar Mamas: Are Women Better at Getting Out of Poverty Than Men?—Why Poverty?

Part of the Series : Why Poverty?
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Rafea Anad is the second wife of a Jordanian Bedouin husband. She attends India’s Barefoot College, an organization that takes uneducated, middle-aged women from poor communities and trains them to become solar engineers. But traditional family ties make it hard for some women, particularly Rafea, to pursue this opportunity. Her husband wants her home and threatens retribution unless she returns. This program follows Rafea as she overcomes difficulties to become a solar engineer, bringing sustainable energy to her village and inspiring other women to seek training, too. A viewable/printable instructor’s guide is available online. A part of the series Why Poverty? (Portions with English subtitles, 60 minutes + 21 minutes of bonus material)

Length: 82 minutes

Item#: BVL55241

ISBN: 978-0-81608-761-7

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

72nd Annual Peabody Award winner

Prix Italia—Special Prize: Expo 2015

“This documentary stood out as being particularly powerful, beautiful and well crafted, capturing the audiences’ attention while conveying strong messages about sustainability, livelihoods, and gender issues.”—Joseph Mizzi, President, Prix Italia Jury, 2014

Related Resources

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.