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How Better Access to Clean Cookstoves Can Empower Women

By Jenny Noonan

March 8, 2016

Unpaid work is a fact of life: it has to be done. The majority of life’s necessary tasks of cooking, cleaning, and caring for others around the world, are done by women and girls. That work is often done with great love and care, but it can be much harder, more time-consuming, and sometimes more dangerous, than it needs to be.

This International Women’s Day, as we celebrate women and their achievements, we join with many who are focusing on how to make improvements in gender equality, especially when it comes to the unpaid work and tasks associated with clean cooking.

Picture of a woman using a conventional cookstove

A woman tries to light the fire in the conventional cookstove in Ganeshpura village in District Mehsana in Indian State of Gujarat. Photograph courtesy the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

What is clean cooking?

It’s being able to use safe fuels for household cooking. Those of us who can cook in our homes with gas or electric stoves can hardly imagine it, but nearly 3 billion people rely on solid fuels to cook—meaning they build fires in their homes. Exposure to smoke from these open fires kills 4.3 million people each year, and the majority of those affected are women and children.

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The journey to collect wood often leaves women and children vulnerable to to violence. Photograph courtesy the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

How does this impact women?

Gathering fuel for fires takes hours each day, and the journey to collect wood for cooking often leaves women and children vulnerable to to violence. The work of gathering fuel and cooking costs women and children up to 5 hours each day, time which women could spend working to build the economy, and children could spend going to school.

What is being done about it?

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves recognizes these problems associated with cooking methods around the world and works to make change. By providing clean and safe household cooking solutions—clean cookstoves—lives are saved, livelihoods are improved, cooking smoke emissions are reduced, and women are empowered.

Men are joining the conversation this year, men like Bill Clinton, Hugh Jackman, and Grammy-nominated musician Rocky Dawuni. They know access to clean cookstoves is critical for achieving women’s empowerment, and they’re speaking out for women and clean cooking.

When given the chance, women and girls can do so much more with their time. A clean cookstove means new opportunities for women, their families, and their communities.

Take Action Challenge

You can read more from 20 Men Who Care About Clean Cooking, and be sure to also read Melinda Gates’ message about Time Poverty from the 2016 Annual Letter.

 

Lead photo of a member of Sewa cooking food on traditional cookstove (L) as well as on clean cookstove (R) at the SEWA Centre in Ganeshpura Village in district Mehsena of Indian State of Gujarat. Photograph courtesy Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

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