by Leah Oviedo.
After escaping violence at home, women and girls in refugee camps face many dangers such as violence, hunger, displacement and looting. On top of this when they venture far away in search of firewood or water, they also risk rape, assault, abduction, beating and death.
Firewood is the main reason for these dangerous excursions out of camps near Touloum, Chad. As the conflict in Darfur, Sudan continues, more refugees arrive with few if any resources from home. They rely on aid organizations and donations to survive, but cooking food usually requires collecting wood far from their new homes. As more people arrive and more trees are cut down close to the camp there is less wood for each individual along with the added problem of deforestation. The cutting of so many trees has caused erosion and also creates conflict with locals who rely on the forest for their own survival.
The Darfur Women Network(DWN) is stepping in with fuel-efficient stoves and a reforestation plan to support the refugees. On August 25, 2014 they distributed 202 stoves to women in the camp. Many women showed up to receive a stove and witness the occasion dressed in their colorful, cleaned clothes. There was a huge celebration and much appreciation.
The “safe stoves” are made with a mixture of mud, water and donkey’s dung and produced by refugee women in their own homes for a production total cost of $10 each. A woman can produce one or two stoves a day depending on her home chores, the time it takes to collect the materials, and drying time which is dependent on the season. The stoves are designed with two windows on its side, a big one for firewood and smaller one for air. A pot is placed inside the stove to hold and keep it stable during the cooking process. It can cook with as little firewood as one stick, unlike a traditional stove.
These clay safe stoves were chosen based on the test that DWN and refugees did for three stoves; a traditional stove, metal stove, and clay stove. As a result, the clay stove was chosen because it is efficient, safe, culturally acceptable, cheap and doesn’t create smoke. Since the stoves are made by refugee women, they are able to earn an income and become empowered. Once a stove is given the DWN continues to offer support. Recipients are taught to utilize all the benefits of the stoves, trained to use different cooking techniques in relation to time and consumption of firewood, and advising on how to change eating habits and cooking processes to benefit the women and girls.
Fuel efficient stoves are only part of the solution since refugees still need firewood. DWN is partnering with the Chad Agriculture Department to provide seedlings so each family can plant at least three desert-trees. “If the 7000 families do their jobs, the refugee mothers and girls will be safe and protected.” says DWN founder Mastora Bakhiet. With less danger and more time saved from searching for fuel, families will have the ability and strength to focus on education and income creation.
The organization is fully operated by volunteers and was started by Mastora Bakhiet who moved to the US from Darfur over 10 years ago. They supply resources, economic development programs, and partner with another organization that offers daycare for young mothers to attend school. Based in Mastora’s home town of Indiana, USA the mission of this non-profit is to empower women and girls from Darfur and improve their cultural communication among various communities. DWN works together with refugees determine their needs and collaborate to meet those needs via education, awareness, and empowerment. Also, this project will help women build their teamwork skills, small business management, and self-sufficiency.
Mastora has a goal to bring a total of 7,000 stoves to the camp. She is hopeful more people will get involved and donate so that all women in the camp are able to cook safely. “So, now, I call on those who value the dignity of women and girls and who support the survivors of Darfur genocide to help us continue to provide our clients with safe stoves.” says Mastora. You can help supply safe stoves to women and girl refugees through Global Giving, Globalgiving.org/projects/protect-empower-refugee-women-and-girls-from-darfur/, Paypal, or send a check to 2902 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208-4715. Volunteer and get involved on the DWN website, http://www.DarfurWomenNetwork.webs.com
Many of the refugees in Chad are seeking safety from a violent conflict that started in 2003 when Janjaweed(an Arab Militia) allied with the Sudanese government to kill Africans and force them to leave their lands in Darfur. Genocide and violence have forced tens of thousands to seek refuge. Ongoing violence continues to create refugees, many of whom are women and children. Returning home is not an option. These stoves are needed now.
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