The Barli Vocational Institute for Rural Women was established in 1985 for the upliftment of rural and tribal women living in small communities in the districts around Indore. During the first few years of operation, it focused primarily on developing income-generating skills like producing small mats, incense sticks, dry leaf cups, candles, chalk sticks and handloom weaving.

The organic growth of the Institute has enabled it to develop a comprehensive curriculum that empowers the women with the knowledge and skills they need to improve their lives and the lives of their families, and the communities in which they live.

Barli is a very common name among tribal women of Dear and Jhabua districts from where come most of the women trained at the Institute. The literal meaning of Barli is the central pillar that holds up the whole tribal house in this area. The Institute believes that the woman is the central pillar of human society.

Location and Facilities
Funding Sources
Primary Objective
Concepts and Approaches
Training Programmes
Environmental Education and Gardening
Health and Hygiene
Vocational Skills
Follow-up and Evaluation
Experience and Recognition

Address of the Institute

Location and Facilities

The programmes of the Institute are run in an area within a radius of 200 kilometres from the campus, which is located on a six acre plot on the outskirts of Indore.

Physical facilities at the campus include a well-equipped workshop-cum-classroom, a dormitory with a kitchen and dining area, an office and staff quarters. The Institute has electrical supply, water supply, sewerage system, telephone and access to fax and telex. There are extensive gardens which provide an excellent learning environment for the students, staff and guests. The Institute has a jeep for its outreach work in the communities.

Funding Sources

Until 2001, the Barli Vocational Institute for Rural Women was known as the Baha'i Vocational Institute for Rural Women and operating funds came almost exclusively from the contributions of members of the Baha'i community in India and around the world. Assistance in establishing infrastructure has been received with gratitude from the Government of India through the Dept. of Science and Technology and APART, the Government of Madhya Pradesh, the Canadian High Commission, the Australian High Commission, the New Era Foundation, the World Community Foundation and several generous individuals. In 2001, the Institute became a separate independent NGO (non-governmental organization), registered under the Societies Act.

Primary Objective

The primary objective of the Institute is to train rural and tribal women from villages around Indore and thereby empower them with the knowledge of their true selves and to give them the skills and knowledge needed to improve the quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities.

The Curriculum is designed to achieve the following:


Concepts and Approaches

Reflected throughout the function of the Institute is its commitment to Baha'i principles that promote the oneness of mankind, unity in diversity, respect for all religions, equality of men and women, obedience to government, service to the community, universal right to education, the harmony between science and religion and independent investigation of truth. These guiding principles enable the trainees and staff to work together in a warm and joyful atmosphere where they can learn together with love and respect for each individual regardless of differences in language, gender, caste, race, economic or religious background.

All the barriers are broken down by working together with consultation, service, participation and self-expression.

While the Institute integrates moral and spiritual values into the training programme, it is careful to encourage trainees to preserve and strengthen their own culture.

Training Programmes

The Institute conducts the following types of residential training programmes every year for needy, deserving and willing rural and tribal women. Nursing mothers are encouraged to join. Transportation, food, accommodation, training and training materials are provided free of charge to the trainees.

Environmental Education and Gardening

Daily training is given in developing and maintaining small vegetable gardens, including: bed preparation, irrigation, growing vegetables and fruits, preparing and raising tree nurseries and flower gardens, transplanting, composting, water, soil and energy conservation.

Most of the Institute's meals are prepared using produce grown in the Institute's garden.


The empowerment of women in not possible without literacy.

The Institute provides each trainee with basic literacy in Hindi to enable her to understand herself and the world in which she lives. This enables her to assume responsibility for finding solutions to personal problems and to take positive action in the context of a changing society. She learns to read, write and understand simple forms, notices, messages, letters, signs and simple books. She learns numeracy and simple arithmetical calculations and the measurement of length, weight and time.

All subjects at the Institute are taught holistically, i.e., interwoven with literacy. For example, in learning gardening the women learn to count the tools, trees and fruits, to weigh them and to write their names. In health instruction, they learn to write the names of different diseases, preventive measures, to take body weight and height. They learn to understand and record time for immunizations and for pre- and post-natal care. The newly-learned Hindi is immediately put to use in measuring cloth and the size of person for whom the garment is being made, making patterns, cutting and stitching according to measurements.

Trainees learn through practical experience to write a receipt, calculate stock, estimate costs, count cash and give change. They also learn to approach a bank or a local government official for the purpose of applying for loans.

To prevent them from falling back into illiteracy, they are encouraged to write postcards to the Institute. All the news, views and stories of the graduates, plus some educational messages, are published in a monthly newsletter, "KOKILAN," (nightingale), which is sent to all the former trainees.

The most promising trainees are encouraged to continue their education through the open school system.

Health and Hygiene

The curriculum in health and hygiene is designed to provide the skills and develop the potential of the trainees and their communities to deal with health problems by preventive measures and practical solutions.

Trainees learn personal and home hygiene and sanitation, child care and nutrition, the prevention of water-borne disease, the value and importance of immunization and pre-and post-natal care, caring for the sick or elderly, the damaging effect of alcohol and domestic violence, and the basics of waste management. Trainees learn to replace superstitious practices with medical care from qualified doctors.

Vocational Skills
  A major component of the Institute's programme is the training in vocational and income-generating skills.

These include tailoring, the use and maintenance of sewing machines, preserving and reviving crafts, especially tribal arts such as tie-dye, embroidery and beadwork. Also included are weaving making of jute mats, dry leaf cups and plates, machine knitting and some marketing skills such as simple accounting.

The Institute helps to market products at regional and national craft fairs.


Follow-up and Evaluation

The Institute's staff spend approximately 100 days each year on field visits to conduct awareness raising programmes, recruit women for courses, do surveys and research, and to assist the former trainees to organize women's committees. Much of this work is carried out by the Area coordinators who report regularly to the Institute.

A baseline survey is being done to measure subsequent qualitative and quantitative changes.



To June 1996, a total of 769 rural tribal women have been trained at the Institute. They came from 119 villages of districts Dhar, Jhabua, Khargone, Ujjain, Dewas and Indore in Madhya Pradesh. As a result of their training, they have the ability to be change agents in their families and communities.

According to a recent survey:


Experience and Recognition

The staff of the Institute, now have nine years of experience in training rural & tribal women in vocational skills and in personal empowerment through education in life skills. 40% of its staff are local people and former trainees.

In 1990, two of its (formerly illiterate) trainees won first prize in a Learner's Song Competition sponsored by UNESCO.

Also in 1990, the literacy methodology used at the Institute was adopted by the University of Leicester, U.K.

In 1992, UNEP conferred the Institute with the GLOBAL 500 ROLL OF HONOUR for outstanding environmental achievements in helping to eradicate guinea worm from 302 villages in Jhabua district, by working with the Technology Mission on Water in educating and training women and villagers.

In 1993, Mrs. Eleanor Mitten, a student from Smith College, Massachusetts, U.S.A. and Ms. Paula Drewek, a faculty member from the University of Michigan, came to do research at the Institute.

In 1994, the Institute is listed in UNESCO's INNOV database as one of 81 successful basic education projects in developing countries.

Since 1990, the Institute has been a placement agency for eight Masters of Social Work students from Indore School of Social Work.

Barli Vocational Institute for Rural Women
180 Bhamori
New Dewas Road
MP 452008

Tel: (+91) 731 554066


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Index words: bahai, indore, women, india, development, environment, education, literacy, health, agriculture, horticulture