Introduction of energy saving and drudgery reducing
Ongoing drudgery reducing initiatives are rooted in the following premise: if women in mountain societies are to begin on the long road to empowerment, they need to be gradually (and quickly) freed from the routine and repeated drudgery that takes up most their day. In hills, the dependence of households on firewood for cooking and space heating is a given. For women the burden of gathering firewood is back-breaking and relentless, getting worse as deforestation and forest degradation proceeds. This burden, added to women’s reproductive role, confines women to their homes, effectively barring them from any active and regular participation in community social life.
The primary objective, therefore, of the ongoing Energy initiative is to lessen this daily drudgery esp. of poorer women. Resultant changes are seeing women and girls now spend less time and energy in: gathering firewood; in cooking and washing blackened utensils and in heating water in inefficient ways. On another level, the accumulated time saved by the women can now be productively used to learn skills that help generate additional income and therefore savings which help establish small individual or group enterprises. Even more importantly, the time may be employed to discuss, and participate in community social development work, or simply used for leisure.
Recognizing multiple energy needs, a multipronged approach was adopted. The manner in which kitchen space is used for cooking, dining, water heating and as a living room, the strategy has been adapted to facilitate transition from traditional fuel source to cleaner and more efficient ones by introducing devices that address particular energy needs. For instance, hot water is required for bathing and washing clothes throughout the year, and in winter, in addition for washing dishes, and bathing cattle.
Introduction of energy saving and drudgery reducing devices namely Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Pressure Cooker, Hamam (Water heating device) and Tandoor (Metallic stove) has been done in a combinations and in a phased manner to address different energy needs of different households. Three valleys, viz Lag, Gadsa and Pahanala have been covered over the years.
Making energy services available to women served as a starting point on the road to gradual and eventual empowerment and resultant social transformation. The sense of achievement generated along with the impacts of time saving, reduced drudgery and improved health has helped sustain these interventions way beyond the project period. Reduced fuelwood consumption, increased participation in local decision making bodies and elections, increased mobility and active participation of men and children in household chores are some of the key indicators of the ongoing change.