Every morning, a young girl in rural Kenya goes on a scavenger hunt. It’s her job: to find and fetch potable water and cooking fuel—dung, weeds, brush, twigs. It takes six or eight hours. She might, instead, be home safe from the risk of sexual assault. She might, instead, be in school.
A simple stove can lift her burdens and change her life.
The simple stove is a solar cooker, fueled by the free heat of the sun. A cardboard and mylar fold-up contraption, the “CooKit” panel cooker also pasteurizes water and milk. It sterilizes baby equipment and kitchen and hygiene utensils. It kills microbes in dirty water that cause cholera and giardia. It breaks our reliance on fuel that causes environmental degradation. Since 1987, when Solar Cooker International (SCI) was established, more than 30,000 solar cookers have found their way into homes in countries with plentiful sunlight.
The high-tech low cost (U.S. $25) “CooKit” was described at a panel event I attended at the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, entitled “From Seeding to Feeding: The Role of Women and Girls Across the Life Cycle of Food.”
This effort is part of a larger pledge to support new initiatives that cut down on time spent gathering water and cooking fuel, and on environmental degradation—initiatives that MADRE and our partners are charting. In Guatemala, we are working with our partners at Muixil to help women establish micro-farms to feed their families and generate income. In Nicaragua, our partner Wangki Tangni provides women with organic seeds and training in sustainable agriculture. In Sudan, our sister organization Zenab for Women in Development is also aiding rural women with tools, seeds and training.
The simplest object can have an enormous impact–a seed, a spade, a solar stove. “Give me a lever and I can change the world,” the old saying goes. And Aline Lederman, vice president of SCI, echoed the thought at the panel: with a solar stove, “we can change the contribution of rural girls to society.”