Cooking and Gender
Why are Women Disproportionately Affected?
Simply put, women cook – often with children nearby. It’s still the case that women have primary responsibility for preparing meals for their families. What’s more, women and girls are typically responsible for securing fuel to cook the family meal. When they leave the safety of their communities to search for firewood and other traditional biomass fuels, they’re at increased risk of gender-based violence, particularly in conflict areas and from refugee camps. Furthermore, time spent collecting fuel is time not spent on income-generation, education or other activities. In fact, cooking has become one of the most dangerous daily activities for women in the developing world.
Toward a Solution
While women bear a disproportionate burden, they’re also critical to clean cooking solutions – solutions as potentially transformative as bed nets and vaccines have been in fighting diseases like malaria and polio. What’s more, clean cookstoves and fuels can empower women, providing significant opportunities for income generation and entrepreneurship.
Photo credit: ICSEE
The clean cookstove and fuel value chain offers new pathways for women’s economic empowerment. Women can participate in, own businesses around and earn income from product design, engineering, manufacturing, maintenance, marketing, distribution, sales and related enterprise that involves cooking, like restaurants and street food vendors.
It is also worth noting that because women and girls use 90 percent of their income in ways that benefit their families and communities – compared to 30-40 percent for men – their significant capacity to reduce global poverty is chief among the aggregate economic benefits associated with the use of clean cookstoves.
As primary users, women’s needs and preferences are also central to successful cookstove design and adoption. Cooking is, after all, a culturally sensitive activity: if new technologies fail to take women’s priorities and requirements into consideration, women won’t use them. In addition, women play a substantial role in increasing awareness and generating demand – awareness about the dangers of household air pollution and the demand for new technologies to mitigate them. Women’s networks and relationship within and across communities can be instrumental for speeding adoption and widespread use.