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Rafea: Solar Mama

March 30, 2014

Denmark | 2012 | 75 Minutes | Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief

Rafea is a Bedouin woman who lives with her daughters in one of Jordan's poorest desert villages on the Iraqi border. When she is selected for an intriguing program called the Barefoot College in India, Rafea doesn't need to think twice, and travels to join 30 illiterate women from different countries to train to become solar engineers.

Rafea immediately understands that she has a unique opportunity to give her children a better future and to provide the whole village with solar power. A tumultuous struggle with her husband threatens to put an end to her dreams, yet Rafea remains determined. Will she be able to empower the other women in the village to join her in the struggle to rewire the traditions of the Bedouin community that stand in their way?


Traditional values are often deployed as an excuse to undermine human rights. A resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012 declaring that "all cultures and civilizations in their traditions, customs, religions and beliefs share a common set of values," invokes a single, supposedly agreed-upon value system that steamrolls over diversity and undermines decades of rights-respecting progress for women. In countries around the world, Human Rights Watch has documented how discriminatory elements of traditions have impeded, rather than enhanced, people's basic social, political, civil, cultural, and economic rights. For women, upon whose shoulders the burden of upholding cultural norms and values often falls, traditional values are often a tool that curtails their human rights.

Director: Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief
Country: Denmark, USA, United Kingdom
Year: 2012
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Website: Official Film Website