Rafea: Solar Mama

Jehane Noujaim, Mona Eldaief

Fascinating investigation the power of education pitted against the strength of tradition. When a Bedouin named Rafea gets an opportunity to train as a solar engineer in India, she meets great resistance from her unemployed husband and conservative community. Rafea: Solar Mama was the winner of the Oxfam Novib audience award at IDFA 2012.

Initially, the directors wanted to film four women from different countries traveling to India to take part in the intriguing program by The Barefoot College, which over the course of six months trains 30 illiterate women from different continents to become solar engineers. But it quickly became clear that the story and personality of a Bedouin named Rafea attracted the most attention. Rafea and her community live in an encampment on the border between Jordan and Iraq. She doesn't need to think twice about the offer to go to India from the Jordanian Ministry of Environment, immediately understanding that this is a unique opportunity to give her children a better future – and even to provide the whole village with solar power. Nevertheless, her family – and her husband in particular – is not as open to change as the clever, curious Rafea. This presents her with an impossible dilemma: to go to India and never see her children again, or to stay behind with no prospect for a better life. Fortunately, her community is not so conservative as to ban cameras.


Jehane Noujaim, Mona Eldaief
Karim Amer, Mette Heide
Country of production
Denmark, United States, United Kingdom
76 minutes
Spoken language
Arabic, English
Production company
Noujaim Films Inc.
World Sales
DR Sales