International Women’s Day is particularly close to our heart for two reasons: Firstly it’s a celebration of the incredible women in our team who make our Tubeho Neza stove distribution in Rwanda happen. Secondly it recognises the amazing, resilient, resourceful women who receive our stoves and all that they achieve for their families and themselves in very challenging situations.
Our team, despite the difficulties of Covid, have safely distributed more than 600,000 stoves to households across rural Rwanda and on completion of the project will have provided 2 million stoves to the entire rural population. One of the key reasons for the project’s success in permanently switching behaviour from traditional fires to our stoves is that the team personally visit every single household to explain the stove’s benefits and how to use it. They build trust and empathy and know that the stove needs to work for the women and how they live, not the other way round. Proof of their success? Independent audits show that the stoves have 99% usage 2 years after distribution.
Our team are proud to be part of IWD and show their solidarity for this year’s theme: #Choose to Challenge. They are role models for Rwanda’s next generation showing that women are leaders, project managers, logistics experts, educators, tech savvy and central to delivering lasting economic and social change for women and for Rwanda.
The second group of women we want to recognise today are the recipients of our stoves. With the traditional 3 stone fire (used by 3 billion people across the globe and 90% of rural Rwandans) the daily drudgery of wood collection, tending the fire and cooking typically occupies women for at least five hours every day.
The DelAgua stove uses 50% less wood so time spent gathering wood is cut by half, it operates efficiently so cooking times are reduced and it lights easily – it’s a stove designed to work for the women and the reality of their lives. This reduces women’s time poverty significantly so, freed from the fire, they can use that time to tend livestock, cultivate the family’s land and improve crop yields which in turn will improve the family’s income and wellbeing.
For those women who purchase their firewood, a major cost accounting for 25% of their weekly expenditure, they have been able to save money as they are buying half the amount of wood. This has enabled them to start their own microbusinesses and earn an income. Read some of their stories here.
On IWD let’s also remember that women and their children bear the brunt of illness and death caused by household air pollution and inhaling the smoke from traditional fires. Stinging eyes and a sore throat are an everyday reality for them. In fact globally, household air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death and disability, ahead of unsafe water and lack of sanitation, and causes more deaths than Malaria, HIV and TB combined. Switching to stoves saves women’s lives: our stove is robust, portable, designed to be used outside or in a porch during Rwanda’s frequent rainy spells, so household air pollution is cut by 73%.
IWD is above all a call to action to accelerate equality and our DelAgua women are doing exactly that: women helping women in one of the world’s poorest economies accelerate their economic, health and social equality.