The Women’s Refugee Commission put cooking fuel and energy on the humanitarian agenda when it became clear that the daily tasks refugee women must do to survive, including gathering cooking fuel, were exposing them to rape and other violence.
In displacement settings, food rations typically must be cooked in order to be eaten, but cooking fuel is rarely provided. Women and girls leave the relative safety of camps to collect firewood – sometimes searching up to six hours a day. They are targeted by soldiers or sometimes by men from host communities, frustrated by the competition for scarce local resources.
The Women’s Refugee Commission contributed unprecedented research on the implications of firewood collection in refugee settings. In 2007, the organization spearheaded the creation of the interagency Task Force on Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE), which produced and widely distributed the first-ever guidance on safe access to energy in humanitarian settings. SAFE combines improved technologies and alternative fuels to reduce the risk of violence to women and girls while meeting the energy needs of displaced populations. Both promote environmental management and rehabilitation.
The Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the humanitarian community to implement SAFE as a standard part of emergency response.
The project continues to test economically and environmentally sustainable cookstoves and fuels that could be scaled up in humanitarian settings.
The Women’s Refugee Commission co-chairs the interagency SAFE Steering Committee, as well as the Humanitarian Working Group of the Global Alliance on Clean Cookstoves. The Women’s Refugee Commission provided expert guidance to UNHCR as it developed its new SAFE strategy, which safely and sustainably supports refugee energy needs.