| Boiling Point No. 27 - April 1992 |
For resource - poor women the working day stretches from dawn to long after dark. The pressures on women's time are fierce, end cooking and fuel collection are among the most arduous of their tasks. The effects of inhaling biomass smoke during cooking are receiving increased attention from researchers, but the impacts of fuel shortages on cooking and nutrition are scarcely noticed.
As fuel shortages make extra demands on time and energy, women are driven to venous coping strategies. More time spent collecting fuel can mean less time growing or preparing food so that quality and quantity of food diminish. Malnourished women become more vulnerable to smoke pollution which injures their lungs, eyes, children, and unborn babies. But improved stoves can cook faster and use less fuel, which lowers levels of exposure to biomass smoke and releases time for other activities.
Our theme message is consistent and urgent: women need relief from their burden of work. Greater technology choice can help to emancipate women from drudgery and give them more control over precious resources. In some places cooking is a particularly time-consuming task, so an improved stove which cooks faster may be a source of delight. Elsewhere, fuel-management strategies by women save more fuel than carefully planned stove programmes. Stove technologists can offer choices, but decisions about household energy technologies should be in the hands of women, the real experts on cooking.
Design Heidi Lange Kikuyu Women (UNICEF)