Rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. But limited access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges they face, which are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change. Empowering them is key not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to overall environmental wellbeing, given women’s continuous interaction with the environment i.e. while fetching firewood, fetching water, tilling the land etc.
Including women as participants and planners in environmental conservation programs encourages empowerment. Making women leaders of environmental conservation and change also lays down the roots for women to become leaders in other areas of the community.
Having an understanding of the relationship that women have with the environment can help development organizations better formulate strong conservation interventions. Women interact with the environment differently than men. The division of labor in many countries across the globe is such that women depend on forest products like firewood, medicines, and foods more than men, and are responsible for collecting these resources. Because of this, women carry different knowledge about the forest, and have different conservation goals that reflect their specific needs and wants from the environment.
With this understanding Carbon Zero Kenya implemented an energy efficient cook stove project in Kisumu West through a local women group – Umeme. The project was implemented by intensively training local women on cooks stove production, marketing skills within the community and simple financial management skills. The women produced 1000 stoves that were later sold to locals thus enabling them earn an income. From the group we met one member; Judy Atieno who also served as the groups treasurer. Judy resides from Nyahera Sub location where she is married with four kids.
Judy says that with the training she received she gained a lot of knowledge she never had before, currently she able to manage and plan her funds better something she never used to do. She is also able to effectively market her stuff i.e. vegetables as a result of the training she got on marketing.
She says that “ever since receiving the artisan cook stoves project my life has tremendously changed. Before the cook stove project I had never been assigned the role of a treasurer of any women group, because of this new role, I have learnt to be very optimistic. Marketing of the artisanal stoves is not easy especially going to new regions to promote them and am glad carbon zero gave me a chance to nurture and explore new skills.”
She continues “now I know the importance of saving money in a bank. Initially the idea was not so clear. The money we save as a group can also enable us to take loans which are very helpful for development. Recently when my husband was admitted in hospital, I had a lot of expenses and the money I had saved from the sale of the cook stoves enabled me to pay the hospital bill and also school fees for my children. Through going to the different market places and daily interaction with people, I have managed to gain courage to approach different lobby groups like chiefs, In Barazas, other women groups to appreciate their products and also sell to them the cook stoves.”
She continues to explain that “the artisanal stoves save a lot of energy and money because less firewood has to be collected or purchased. It also cooks faster so women have more time to engage in other income-generating activities and it is more hygienic than the traditional model. The stoves have greatly improved our living standards. I will always give my gratitude to Carbon Zero for giving me this opportunity”.
Compiled by; Christine Atira and Moses Maina