A Ray of Hope for Women and Girls in South Sudan
Twenty-year-old Brenda Abee Martin from Nimule in South Sudan has been using firewood for her family cooking needs since she was a young girl. In those days, firewood was plentiful and Brenda could collect as many as she wanted from a forest a stone throw away from her home.
Today, the situation has changed. The once lush forests in her area are fast disappearing due to deforestation. The ever-growing need for a cheap source of energy is forcing many women to venture deep into the hinterland, in search of firewood, where chances of sexual and physical abuse are high.
“We don’t have an alternative fuel apart from firewood,” says Brenda. “So we have to travel long distances in search of firewood, which exposes us to many dangers. Recently, a close friend was attacked when she went to collect firewood but she was fortunate to escape unhurt.”
The reality is scary for women and girls in South Sudan as years of conflict has ‘normalized’ violence. In most cases, survivors of violence don’t have recourse to justice or they just keep quiet, as they fear being stigmatized.
Energy saving stoves brings hope for women and girls
Last month, CARE supported training of 80 women and adolescent girls at Nimule Women and Girls Friendly Space to make fuel-efficient stoves.
“When I heard about the training, I approached a CARE staff at the Woman and Girls Friendly Space to ask if I can also be trained in making fuel efficient stoves,” says Brenda. “Luckily, there was still some space and they enrolled me for the training.”
The objective of the training was to address challenges faced by women in Nimule by providing better energy options and at the same time shielding them from potential abuse as they go about collecting firewood.
“I got a lot of knowledge from the training on how to make energy efficient stoves and also to conserve our environment. The fuel efficient stove doesn’t use much firewood meaning less visits to the forests,” says Brenda.
Sharing knowledge with other women in their community
The cohort, which CARE trained in Nimule, is expected to pass on the skills to other women in their community to create a multiplier effect.
“Most of our forests are gone,” says Brenda. “So it’s very important that we teach those who couldn’t make it to the training to make fuel efficient stoves to save the existing forests.”
Another participant to the training, Asumpta Mundrua (59) says apart from gaining skills in making energy saving stoves, she has also benefitted from learning on how other women are coping with gender violence.
“Meeting friends and sharing my problems has helped me forge ahead with life,” says Asumpta. “I stay alone and it’s scary as a woman because I am exposed to many abuses. I am an easy target as I am a widow.”
It takes only three sticks to make a fire with the energy conserving stoves. This means, with a lot less firewood, a household can have their energy needs addressed for a longer period. “I use a lot of firewood within my household,” explains Asumpta. “However, I am not young anymore and it’s difficult for me to travel every day to the forest to collect firewood.
“I have learnt much in this training and it will help me save firewood and conserve our environment and also reduce the risk of women being abused when going to look for firewood,” says Asumpta.
Generating an income through energy saving stoves
With funding from the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SSHF), CARE has trained 240 women and adolescent girls in the production of fuel-efficient stoves in Magwi, Nimule and Koch. According to Patrick Vuonze, CARE’s Gender Based Violence Manager, the training has helped women and girls not only to save on fuel but also to empower them economically.
“CARE trained 80 women in Magwi and some are now using the energy saving stoves to bake bread, which they sell in their communities,” says Vuonze. “Apart from economic empowerment, the fuel efficient stoves have also lessened the frequency of movement to the forest by women and girls hence reducing incidences of attacks.”
By Joseph Scott, Communications and Policy Coordinator, CARE South Sudan