December 19, 2008 posted by Shyama Venkateswar
For thousands of these impoverished women and girls, gathering firewood is more than a vital chore - it is often a matter of life and death. By doing what many of us achieve by simply turning on a stove, refugee women and girls regularly fall victim to rape, assault, theft, exploitation, and even murder... It's high time we get "beyond firewood" and explore alternative fuels and cutting-edge energy technologies, such as clean-burning fuels, fuel-efficient stoves, and solar cookers, Ullmann says. We need to reduce women’s vulnerability to violence by investing in alternative sources of fuel that do not require women to travel long distances to collect firewood.
Women in countries like Nepal spend up to 40% of their time on fuel collection  leaving them little time to take up leadership roles in their societies or providing for their children’s future. Such investments would also open up women’s time and opportunities significantly. Although collecting forest produce and fuel is an economic activity often neglected in global indicators, making women less dependent on foraging for firewood would allow them to partake in more secure livelihood generating activities and maintaining the health and well-being of their families as well. As we think about the various insidious forms that violence takes around the globe, it's important to remember that for women in certain parts of the world, safe cooking fuel is as fundamental a necessity as food and water. See what organizations are doing around this issue and read the rest of the op-ed, here . --Liv Ullmann is honorary chair of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children . --Shyama Venkateswar is the Director of Research and Programs at the National Council for Research on Women. Welcome to The Real Deal, Shyama! This post is part of a forum