INDIA: Rural women trained in literacy, health and
Update, December 2010:
This year saw
the Barli Development Institute celebrate its 25th
anniversary and a year-long calendar celebration is
currently in full flow. Beginning in July 2010, the
events are scheduled until May 2011: for a timetable,
here. The work of the Barli institute was one of the Sacred
Gifts recognized at the ARC-WWF Kathmandu Celebration in
Founders Jimmy and Janak McGillligan
estimate that 5000 women from 500 villages have received
training from either the original centre, or one of its
three extensions across Kanker. In 2008, Oscar
Fernandes, the Union Minister of Labour from the Indian
Government, awarded the institute the Harmony Foundation
Indore’s Jewels of Service for its Commendable Service
to Society. The following year, Indore’s Centre for
Environment, Protection, Research and Development
granted Barli their Environmental Friend Award.
In 1998, a solar cooker was installed in Barli’s
kitchen using technology developed by German scientist
Dr Dieter Seifert. This cooker allows 80% of daily food
output to be resourcefully cooked for 250 days of the
year: this saves three kilos of gas or 24 kilos of wood
In 2003, the success of this
cooker inspired the Institution to train village
craftsmen to replicate this technology. Now other NGOs
and establishments in the area are benefitting from this
ecological way of supporting the community.
300 orphans in a Dhar orphanage have been
supported by their new solar cooker and a further 500
tribal children have been catered for across the town of
Jhabua in the Madhya Pradish. Over 400 villagers have
been given the opportunity to take this technology home
with them by attending training sessions that teach them
how to use the solar cookers to cook in a domestic
environment. They can also dry vegetables, fruit, herbs
and spices in preparation for times when supplies are
short. Much of this produce can be taken from the
Institute’s three-acre organic garden.
have expressed their relief at the introduction of solar
cookers into the home. When they gathered timber to fuel
their conventional ovens and fires, they were frequently
attacked and raped in the forests. Now, they no longer
have to face this reality.
“zero-waste” policy, Barli Institute is making huge
improvements in resource consumption both in the kitchen
and the broader community.
World Environment Day 2010
June 2010 hosted the annual World Environment Day,
but with a silver anniversary to celebrate, Barli
extended festivities into a five day event. This year’s
topic, “Many Species. One Planet. One future” looked to
the future and 121 women from 57 rural and tribal
villages gathered to discuss sustainable development
within the community and the environment.
- Water sanitation;
Alternative energy sources such as solar power;
- Health and nutrition.
The ceremony also culminated in the graduation of
this year’s students as well as updates from previous
graduates. Many success stories were shared, inspiring
Barli Development Institute’s new graduates and current
students to put their knowledge to practical use.
The majority of students at Barli have never been
to school and the training offered, free of charge, at
Barli Development Institute is a rare opportunity for
women to access education. Mrs McGilligan reports that
the average pass result for students of the Institute
who have never attended school is 85%. Ultimately,
though, whether students pass or fail, they still leave
the institution with greater insight and understanding
of environmental and community issues than they started
Since 1999, new courses lasting up to
six months have been held twice a year for residential
students. The programme of study covers in-depth
Caring for the environment: agriculture and
horticulture; learning to plant, maintain and
protect trees and crops; sourcing seeds and plants;
composting and vermiculture; water, soil,
biodegradable material and waste management.
- Gender sensitisation;
Personal and social development: how to plan and
develop initiatives that will benefit the community.
These have often led to the launch of independently
supported development schemes within the community
and the environment.
Village and rural health and hygiene: preventative
and practical solutions to water-disease; the
importance of immunisation;
Pre and post natal care: caring for pregnant women;
dealing with pregnancy in the social environment;
child disease; the importance of registering births
and deaths; the role of the mother and of the
Women’s reproductive health: the physiology of
conception and symptoms of pregnancy; the importance
of immunisation; giving birth safely; breast
- Caring for the sick or elderly
Graduates can then go on to complete a further
year-long Grassroots Trainers course to qualify them in
teaching, enabling them to take their knowledge home and
spread awareness across India. These individuals have
had a massive impact on the environment, health and
education levels of their homes.
Barli Development Institute
The Barli Development Institute for Rural
Women, near Indore in Central India, gives indigenous
women training in literacy, agriculture, health,
income–generation, and environmental conservation.
group – which was inspired by Bahá’í social activism –
was established as an independent entity in September
2001, and was offered as a Sacred Gift in 2002.
1985 the Institute and its forerunner have trained more
than 1,300 women as “social change agents” since 1985.
The trainees learn conservation strategies through
practical action. Rainwater is harvested and stored,
washing water is reused for irrigation. Gardens tended
by the trainees provide most of the Institute’s food.
Trainees prepare meals using state-of-the-art solar
cookers; some become ‘experts’ able to support solar
cookers in their own villages.
curriculum includes hygiene and sanitation, child–care
and nutrition, and vocational skills such as tailoring,
fabric design, and computing. And the programme stresses
spiritual principles including the oneness of humanity,
equality of women and men, respect for diversity, and
service to the community.
When they return
home after training, 99% of graduates are literate; 97%
use safe drinking water; 96% use their income generation
skills to provide for their families.