Friday, December 11, 2009

Emancipated from the Smoky Kitchen by the Power of the Sun

This scene might look like just another day in the life of a Malian housewife. But in fact, this is far from a portrait of mundane drudgery - rather, this scene captures the quiet struggle of women's empowerment and feminist revolution.

You see, something is missing from this picture - were it to capture the quotidian labors of the average Malian woman. Deborah Dao cooks her family three square meals a day - a responsibility which in this economy requires nearly constant preparation and cooking. Most women spend all day pounding millet, mixing the batter, chopping firewod and fanning the flames to cook their family's toh, but here there is no burning hearth, no fire, no smoke.

On a closer look, you can see that Deborah is cooking with a solar oven - a wonderful appliance made by local carpenters with their own wood and just a few imported materials which harnesses solar radiation to collect heat energy.

If Deborah prepares her family's lunch early in the morning and places it in her solar oven, by noon it's ready to eat. And she is free of the tedious labor of fanning the flames for hours at a time.

Now that she no longer has to spend all morning in the smoky kitchen inhaling the noxious fumes and tars of wood smoke, Deborah can occupy her time with various cottage industries. She makes shea butter, soap, liquid soap and incense to sell at market and earn money for herself and her children. On this day, she is sewing garments for her neighbors; a Westerner might think that Deborah is still relegated to traditional "women's work", but here in Mali, most women are too busy fanning the flames of the hearth to engage in much income-generating activity - most taylors are men. Deborah, on the other hand, is the only female taylor in the entire Commune of Sanadougou.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You can find much more information about solar cooking in Mali on the Solar Cooking Archive Wiki.

Tom Sponheim
Solar Cookers International