Partner Spotlight: Women’s Refugee Commission
Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) researches the needs of women, children, and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. We identify solutions based on that research and then advocate for programs and policies to strengthen resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice.
The drudgery and burden of ensuring cooking fuel and household energy needs are met almost always falls on women and girls. This is especially true for displaced women – without safely accessible natural resources nearby, they travel long distances to find sufficient firewood to cook for their families, heat their homes, and light their communities. Sadly, this burden means that every day, millions of women and girls risk being raped, beaten, or killed as they collect firewood. In many cases, they walk for hours per day, and sometimes they are even forced to sleep in the harsh environments where they are collecting fuel because they are so far from home.
We have spoken with thousands of women in camps across the world, and they have told us that firewood collection is one of their most dangerous responsibilities – it exposes them to the risk of violence and harm.
In emergencies and crises, people often flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs. In their new locations, they often have very few, if any, options for generating income, so they are forced to rely on natural resource intensive livelihoods like collecting and selling firewood in order to survive. Women and girls spend a significant amount of time and labor collecting firewood; not only for their own household energy needs, but also for income generation purposes. This incredibly time consuming and labor-intensive activity prevents them from partaking in safer and more sustainable activities, such as farming and education.
A Somali refugee woman interviewed by Women’s Refugee Commission in Dadaab reported that she could earn roughly US $0.50 by selling the bundle of wood that she carries on her back. To find this much wood, she must walk 4-5 kilometers outside of the camp – taking as long as 5 hours. During this long and dangerous journey, she risks being attacked by people and wild animals, and potentially suffering from dehydration due to the desert heat.
This is why the Women’s Refugee Commission is part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative. SAFE is a holistic approach to meeting the energy needs of displaced populations worldwide. It promotes safe and sustainable energy-related interventions, technologies, and options for the world’s most vulnerable people living in some of the world’s most fragile environments.
As the first organization to systematically research household energy needs for displaced people in humanitarian settings, Women’s Refugee Commission has been championing this work for nearly a decade. In partnership with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, as well as with the Inter-agency SAFE Reference Group, we are working to ensure that vulnerable populations have safe and sustainable access to energy, which is critical to their safety, well-being, and productivity. The technical expertise and convening capacity of the Alliance, coupled with WRC’s extensive knowledge of protection issues and humanitarian research expertise, continues to significantly strengthen the SAFE initiative – and reach communities most in need.