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April 11, 2013 | posted in Filmmakers
Rafea, a young mother in Jordan, leaves her family, travels to India and becomes a solar engineer. Her story is told in “Rafea: Solar Mama.”
The film is “a truly cinematic, humorous, emotional and inspirational experience,” says filmmaker Mona Eldaief.
Eldaief first met Rafea when she was being recruited to attend Barefoot College. Another woman backed out of the program and Rafea jumped at the opportunity to leave the next day.
Barefoot College is a program in India focused on improving the standard of living and quality of life. Since 1972, almost 7,000 rural—and mostly illiterate—women (the majority are grandmothers) have been trained in areas traditionally dominated by men. One of those areas, and Rafea’s course of study, is solar engineering. The program consists of six months of training, using color-coded graphics and no written words.
If Rafea succeeds, she will be able to electrify her village, train more engineers, and provide for her daughters.
After a month in India, Rafea returned home due to the threats of her husband. But that made her even more convinced to go through with the program. “She was then determined to get back to India, continue her education and change the situation of all the women in her village,” says Eldaief.
Rafea comes from a very conservative and poor desert village near the border of Iraq. For a Jordanian woman to stand up for herself and do something that she wants to do ... not what the males in her life want for her, is truly a unique situation.
“Women are outspoken,” says Eldaief, “but I haven't seen one like Rafea, whose fighting words led to action—no matter what.”
Although the story may be unique for a woman in Jordan, Eldaief thinks that Rafea's struggle—as a mother to create a better life for herself, her daughters and her community—is universal.
As a documentarian, Eldaief gets very attached to her subjects, who trust her “to get their story out.”
“Her humor and inspirational and magnetic personality has crossed all cultural boundaries with audiences,” Eldaief continues.
And she is still determined to get Rafea’s story out to as many audiences as she can. Although Rafea has been back from India now for a while, she needs support to get the solar project off the ground. And Eldaief knows that her film will be “an invaluable tool for change in [Rafea’s] community and similar communities around the world.”
--Anne M. DiTeodoro
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