We all had so much hope for Jordan’s Solar Mamas – two women who traveled from a dusty village to India in order to become “solar engineers.” During their six month training, they learned to install and maintain small-scale solar systems back home and proceeded, upon their return, to implement 80 of them back home.
Rafea Al Raja and her Aunt Seiha Al Raja (Um Bader) became famous with fans across the globe rooting for them; Mona Eldaif even filmed a short documentary to tell their story, which was screened in Amman for the first time last week. But they didn’t receive sufficient financial support to achieve their goals and their family resented their new-found esteem. What resulted is a betrayal of unimaginable proportions.
When Rafea and Um Bader returned to Jordan, they received a hero’s welcome, according to The Jordan Times.
Other villagers threw a big party for them complete with all the attending theatrics and newspapers everywhere lauded their extraordinary courage and vision.
They had planned to not only install a host of renewable energy systems so that their village could profit from energy security, but they also expressed a desire to open a training center so that other women could receive the same kind of training that they received in India.
The project initiated by Friends of the Environment Society (FES) could have had a resounding positive impact on the village if it had received support from both government and non-government agencies, according to its founder and president Raouf Dabbas. Not only would it have boosted the country’s energy sector, which is badly in need of one, but it would have lifted women out of total obscurity.
“They [Al Raja women] have the ability to independently install and maintain solar-powered electricity, addressing two of Jordan’s main issues: renewable energy and female empowerment,” Dabbas told the paper.
“Now, this whole project is threatened because no one is willing to finance it despite our repeated appeals to all existing institutions from the government to NGOs and embassies.”
Even more distressing than the apathy they faced from the public sector, their own families turned on them.
Um Bader’s son, who also trained in Jordan and who was to be the President of their solar engineering project in Jordan, grew so frustrated with the slow pace with which money was trickling in that he allegedly dismantled several systems and sold the components on the black market.
And her husband was so disturbed by Um Bader’s new found celebrity and independence that he divorced her, leaving her to take care of their large family alone.
He then went to prison after he was caught working within an illegal smuggling ring.
Despite their burgeoning problems and scorn from the villagers that once supported them, Rafea and her Aunt seem determined to persevere. And they’ve got Mona and Raouf on their side.