Lucia* is a female refugee in her 30’s. She has four children. She came to Uganda from Congo to run away from her abusive husband. She decided to live far away from her husband and she does not ever want to return to Congo, the place where she experienced so much pain and violence from her husband. So she now lives in a refuge camp in Arua. “I came to the camp with my children,” she says. “I ran away after being raped and beaten by my husband in front of my children on several occasions but I still live in fear because some of the women we go with to collect fire wood have been captured and raped, I have been lucky so far but I don’t know how long that luck will last because fire wood is something we have to get everyday.”
Due to violence, armed conflict and natural disaster, Uganda is now a home of over 1.4 million displaced individuals like Lucia. For individuals living in a post conflict setting and refugee host communities, even the most basic aspects of daily living like cooking can be a challenge.
It’s one thing to worry about your next meal due to lack of enough source of cooking energy and it becomes another story to know that your life is at risk once you decide to move out and collect firewood out in the wilderness where you are probably going to be assaulted both physically and Sexually. Women and children often bear these burdens – spending many hours collecting fuel and cooking meals over smoky fires. Reports show that young girls are living in fear in refugee settlements because of the high risks of rape and assault by mainly soldiers who in this case are meant to provide security to them.
“Soldiers and local people torture and assault female refugees when they venture into the forests in search of firewood,” Says Sarah Basemera our Team Leader at Raising Gabdho Foundation a social enterprise that aims at accelerating clean energy uptake through innovative products to strengthen self-reliance and resilience to energy poverty among the vulnerable communities.
Ensuring that such acts of violence against women are mitigated, the need to provide clean energy has become a global agenda. It is Goal 7 among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a call to action by Global leaders. Clean Energy which can also be referred to as green energy could be realized here in Uganda through innovative approaches like recycling bio waste and compost manure and the use of solar energy without forgetting the use of natural gas. It has been realized that it doesn’t pollute the environment and thus it prevents people from acquiring respiratory diseases.
Gender Based Violence also extends to the homes of women and girls in the Humanitarian Setting as they are likely to experience violence at home by their partners for failure to provide cooked food due to fuel shortage.
Zeed energy project by Raising Gabdho Foundation has been introduced to refugee camps and green shops have been set up in refugee host communities here in Uganda to ease access to clean energy products with the main aim of keeping girls and women safe and also improve the overall quality of life. Energy burning stoves and slow burning briquettes have already been distributed to refugees. A new innovation of a fire-less cooking basket has also been introduced to the people to help them save the available cooking energy they have.
This program could eliminate some of the threat of sexual assault in the settlements but also address Gender Based Violence right from its core drives and in this case we are talking about the power imbalances and social injustices in the Refugee Communities in Uganda.
“In three years, we expect to see a shift from traditional cooking methods to using energy efficient stoves and briquettes as well as acquiring skills of manufacturing these stoves. Over the years that I have spent in refugee communities I have farther more become convinced that sustainable energy can bring light and hope to the world’s poorest communities. That’s why we’re supporting people living in refugee camps to access sustainable energy so they can rebuild their lives and break their reliance on aid” says Sarah Basemera