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Can a stove help protect women in Darfur?

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No one should have to risk her life to feed her family. Here’s how a simple piece of technology is making a difference.

Every day in Darfur, Sudan, women set out to gather fuel so they can cook food for their families.  It is a strenuous job and a very dangerous one. The countryside is rife with armed bandits and militias, and women and girls who leave their camps and villages have no protection from assault.

When I visited Darfur recently, I saw the kind of toll the past 12 years of conflict has taken on the environment. Where a forest once grew, there was nothing but sand and a few plants so bitter or poisonous that even the goats let them be.

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Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam America

In the past, people here collected firewood, but the women I met by the roadside were only hoping to find roots to burn.

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Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam America

Each carried a single tool for digging and chopping: an axe.

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Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam America

They worked under a blazing sun and at the end of the day would carry their loads for miles to the camps or towns where they lived. The lucky ones had donkeys to help them.

sudan pix
Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam America

To relieve women of some of the risk of gathering fuel—and the expense of purchasing it—Oxfam and local partner organizations have  provided more than 25,000 families with fuel-efficient Berkeley-Darfur stoves. The stove designers worked with women in Darfur to develop a model suited to their needs–one that uses less than half the fuel of a traditional three-stone fireplace.

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Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam America

“I like the stove because it uses less wood than a fireplace and cooks food more quickly. In the past, if I spent 5 SDG [84 cents] on wood it would last a day. Now, 5 SDG lasts me a week,” said Zahara Hassan, a woman whose family was displaced by the conflict earlier this year, and who received a stove from an Oxfam partner organization.

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Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam America

It is really good to know the stoves are making a difference. But no one should have to risk her life to feed her family.  I will never forget the brave women I met in Darfur.

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Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam America

Help provide life-saving aid to families driven from their homes. Stand by the women of Sudan: Donate now >

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