Women’s empowerment at the core
The Maasai Women’s Installation Team
Women’s empowerment through providing opportunities for women is a central value for the International Collaborative. At first, The Maasai Stoves & Solar Project saw the installation step as a potentially difficult logistical challenge to overcome. However, the Project Leaders soon realized that the construction work required for chimneys and solar power presented a great opportunity for women.
And indeed, it would become the an entry point for engaging women in the local value chain.
Joining the Maasai Stoves & Solar Installation Team helped to build the women’s ownership of the product and market process, while also providing additional income. And in the process, it built a new community. Meet some of the MSS leaders. Read about how the Project works to empower widows.
Remarkable results from a core value
- Maasai women who join stove installation teams are profoundly appreciative of the opportunity to learn to use tools and master construction and design challenges, and report feeling authentically empowered
- 120 newly empowered leaders have emerged–and more to follow
- MSS women initiated the self-directed Monduli Women’s Pastoralist Association (MPWO)
- Greater appreciation of the power of a collective of women, and not just individual women
- Each stove saves the woman of the house 10-12 hours of weekly wood gathering labor
- Each stove saves 120 pounds of firewood per week, reducing deforestation
- Therefore, there is more time for women to farm and to start businesses and other enterprise
- MSS cornflour mills give widows the opportunity to earn much-needed wages and stoves
How the teams work
Today, 220 women installers and 120 trainers work in 18 villages and 43 settlements, or bomas. The women are diverse in age and education level, although most are married. The Maassai Stoves & Solar Women’s Installation teams work in groups of 5 to 10, selected by village women during a community meeting.
Within these groups, the women elect their own leaders and manage the installations. Trainers provide approximately ten days of instruction to Maasai women. After that time, they are able to install the improved stoves and solar systems. In addition, settlement members, both men and women, receive solar electrification training. This enables them to install the solar powered micro-grid for settlement-wide electrification. Each team leader works with local ICSEE project managers who arrange for the materials to be delivered to the installation sites.
Women’s preferences guide stove design
Because Maasai women do all of the cooking, their preferences on how the food cooks and tastes, the type and size of the fuel, and the ways in which the fire must be tended, needed to be incorporated into the International Collaborative design.
From the beginning, MSS worked closely with the Maasai women to incorporate their opinions, ideas, and preferences. After initial discussions and receiving design feedback from twelve men and women from Monduli Juu the Project developed a prototype and tested extensively for health impacts and efficiency. Over the years, MSS has repeated this process for continuous stove design improvement.The Project works towards lowering manufacturing costs while improving stove durability.