Empowering Girls as Agents of Change for Clean Cooking Solutions
Behavior change is a critical step in the adoption of new technologies, and in Ghana, thousands of Girl Guides—adolescent girls developing leadership and citizenship skills—are learning about the importance of efficient cookstoves and spurring their families and communities to change the way they cook. Since 2014, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has partnered with the Ghana Girl Guides Association (GGGA) on an awareness campaign pilot, which includes the design and implementation of an education program to teach girls about the negative impacts of traditional cooking practices, and gives them opportunities for leadership through introducing this new technology to their local community.
The Ghana Girl Guides Association has an established membership base of 20,000 adolescent girls, and brings credibility to social messages at the community level. The targeted beneficiaries of the Alliance-GGGA pilot are members of the Girl Guides in Anyamam, Ada West district, Ghana, who are 15-25 years old.
A baseline study revealed major knowledge gaps among the Girl Guides and their families around clean cooking:
- 90% of households surveyed used traditional stoves
- 44% had no previous knowledge of clean cookstoves
- Only 14% owned an improved cookstove
- 61% cooked over open fire
- 66% were unaware that traditional cooking accounts for a high rate of infant mortality
To address these gaps, GGGA designed and implemented a one-week training curriculum to educate 200 Girl Guides about clean cooking solutions, and the social, economic, and environmental impacts of traditional cooking practices. This training will be incorporated into the manuals GGGA uses nationwide, along with communications materials that can be widely distributed throughout Ghanaian communities, online, and via social media. The training program also includes empowerment and leadership components adapted for adolescent girls from the Alliance’s Empowered Entrepreneur Training Handbook to strengthen girls’ capacity to become leaders in their communities by promoting clean cooking solutions and sharing their knowledge with others.
Ruth Ocansey, a Girl Guide trainer, introduced her improved cookstove to her family, which saved them time and money because it takes less time to light, heats more efficiently, and requires half as much charcoal for cooking. Ruth lets her neighbors borrow the stove and they are now interested in purchasing a new stove for themselves. Alberta Abayateye, another trainer, also reported saving money on charcoal used for cooking. And, after recently moving to a neighboring village, she remains committed to sharing her positive experience using improved cookstoves with her new community members.
As a result of the pilot project with GGGA, all 200 Girl Guides reported increased awareness of clean cooking solutions, empowerment, leadership, and entrepreneurship, better positioning them to serve as community change agents. Each girl’s household purchased an improved cookstove during the pilot, resulting in:
- 85% of Girl Guides reporting a preference for improved cookstoves over traditional stoves because they are clean, efficient, and easy to maintain
- 90% of Girl Guides’ households adopting the improved cookstove as their primary cooking device
- Fewer Girl Guides reporting use of wood as their main fuel source, with the majority of girls using charcoal, and some using LPG
GGGA continues to work to expand its program nationally–implementing the training in other regions and measuring the impact in each community, given different regional needs. Eventually the pilot project hopes to reach all 20,000 Girl Guides in Ghana and attract 5,000 new girls and young women as members. Additionally, GGGA is part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which has over 10 million members in 155 countries globally, so a similarly-structured program could be implemented with other populations of Girl Guides. Following the success of the initial pilot project, GGGA has gained recognition in Ghana as a leading youth organization promoting clean cooking solutions, and the awareness-raising campaign has shown unique potential to scale globally through the Girl Guides international network of adolescent girls.