Currently, young girls are hugely disadvantaged across rural Africa. Many do not attain academic certifications and are consequently sentenced to a life of poverty from a very young age. For centuries this has been the case, constantly reinforced by traditional beliefs about the role of women in society and the continuous cycle of poverty. Now, in 2012, the BYE Foundation is ready to take the first steps to break this cycle once and for all.
You may think; build more schools, educate parents about the importance of education and so forth. Yes, although these are all important aspects, the Green Girls Project of the Utrecht-based BYE Foundation is taking a slightly different approach. This is an approach that can only be understood once you appreciate the nexus between energy use, young girls and education in rural Africa.
In the vast majority of rural African societies girls are required to contribute significantly to housekeeping from a young age. In Kigumo, Kenya, girls as young as 5 are required to walk long hours in order to fetch firewood, in order to subsequently use that in their kitchen to help prepare meals. Meanwhile, girls of this age in the Netherlands are almost always enrolled in a primary school. Unfortunately for many young rural girls in Kigumo, the time-consuming chores which they are expected to fulfil often conflict directly with their ability to attend or concentrate in school.
Besides this, firewood collection in isolated forests exposes young girls to sexual violence and rape, whilst carrying heavy loads from a young age severely impedes their physical development. Once they return home to prepare the family meal, badly ventilated kitchen areas expose these young girls to excessive smoke inhalation. This leads to respiratory ailments such as Acute Lower Respiratory Infections (ALRI), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) as well as eye problems which are disproportionally found among young girls in Kigumo.
Sceptics will tell you that there is not just one solution to these problems, however, at the BYE Foundation, they believe they have found an important part of the puzzle in the Green Girls Project (GGP). The GGP is an innovative approach towards improving the current livelihoods and future prospects of young rural girls in Kigumo. By advocating a switch from firewood use to domestic biogas, the GGP and BYE Foundation aim to tackle female inequality in Africa’s rural setting at its root, as well as addressing a multitude of other issues along the way.
The GGP works on the principle that by replacing firewood with domestic biogas as the primary household energy, young girls are able to attend regular, full-time education; just like their male counterparts. Domestic biogas runs on human and animal waste, which fortunately is plentiful in these rural settings, and implies no more time consuming and dangerous trips in order to collect firewood.
Additionally, domestic biogas is a green energy; meaning that young girls can now avoid excessive exposure to smoke from firewood, benefitting their health in the long term. This indirectly also contributes to environmental conservation through the avoidance of firewood use, as well as increased agricultural production through the use of bio-slurry generated by domestic biogas plants.
Most importantly, however, it gives young girls an opportunity to join a brighter, more empowered and egalitarian future.
For more information on the Green Girls Project and how you can contribute please visit www.byefoundation.org