[Svrilist] Beyond Firewood

svrilist at mrc.ac.za svrilist at mrc.ac.za
Mon May 8 20:41:01 SAST 2006

Widespread Problem of Rape and Abuse of Displaced Women and Girls
Collecting Firewood

Wolfgang Trautwien, German Ambassador to the UN; Carolyn Makinson, Exec.
Dir., Women’s Commission; Thoraya Obaid, Exec. Dir., UNFPA; Anjana Shakya,
Exec. Dir. Beyond Beijing Committee, Nepal

New York, NY, March 14, 2006—The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and
Children today released a first-of-its-kind report on ways to mitigate
widespread violence against displaced women and girls as they collect
firewood. Despite the known dangers, these women and girls must collect
wood to sell or cook with in order to survive in conflict situations
around the world. The new report outlines a number of practical solutions
that could save thousands of women and girls from being attacked.

“Every day, millions of displaced women and girls must collect firewood
for their families in dangerous conditions, and are at risk of rape,
assault, abduction, theft, exploitation and even death,” says Women’s
Commission Executive Director Carolyn Makinson. “They have no choice—it’s
a matter of survival. It’s time for the international community to take
coordinated action to address this problem.”

The report addresses alternative fuel options, firewood collection
techniques and other protection strategies that should be used in
displaced and refugee situations worldwide. At the start of a new
emergency, a lead agency should coordinate all fuel-related activities—in
consultation with displaced women—to provide food that needs little
cooking and to consider the direct provision of fuel to families. In
addition, transportation to firewood collection sites and/or regular
patrols of the routes should be enacted. At the same time, alternative
technology should be considered, such as fuel-efficient stoves, solar
energy or briquettes. Such stoves can reduce firewood consumption by up to
80 percent. Any fuel or technology should be evaluated for medium- to
long-term use and take into account safety, locally available materials,
sustainability and cost.

Case studies highlight the problem in Darfur and Nepal. Sexual assaults on
displaced women and girls outside displaced persons camps in Darfur occur
with stunning frequency; it’s perhaps the most dangerous place in the
world for women to collect firewood. The research in Nepal , where
Bhutanese refugees have received kerosene since 1992 and where they also
use alternative fuel options, has found that sexually based attacks
outside the refugee camps are relatively rare.

“Although rape and other violence during firewood collection is a serious
problem, it is one that the international community can do something about
now,” Makinson says. “To be effective, however, these strategies mush be
coordinated and accompanied by the development of alternative income
generation activities.”

Key Recommendations:
The United Nations should consider providing fuel to displaced families in
the early days of an emergency.
National and international security forces should provide transportation
to firewood collection sites and/or routinely patrol the routes.
Humanitarian agencies should promote fuel-efficient technologies and
alternative fuels to lessen the need for firewood.
These solutions must be coordinated by one agency, implemented in
consultation with refugee women and coupled with income-generation

For more information visit http://www.womenscommission.org/

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