Sufferings of Rural Women in Jammu and Kashmir during chilled winter

Jammu :- In this chilly winter a village woman is seen axing an uprooted stump to get the firewood from the snow-covered area of forest at Alaka Athkhar in Bhaderwah valley about 215 km from Jammu city in Jammu and Kashmir.  Wood has been used since prehistorical times for cooking and heating and remains the primary energy source for billions of people throughout the world.

It is an alarming fact that today in the 21st century there are still billions of people who totally depend on wood for cooking food. As per reports, Currently, about 2.7 billion people in developing countries who rely for cooking primarily on wood and out of 2.7 billion people 82% live in rural areas. No doubt, other alternatives to the fuelwood are also available in some parts of the developing countries but people mostly prefer fuelwood as their major cooking fuel due to perhaps rising liquid fuel cost (LPGs and Kerosene), poverty, unemployment, and population pressure etc. 

The scarcity of fuelwood has increased the time burden especially of women, who are traditionally responsible for collecting fuelwood for domestic purposes in many parts in Jammu and Kashmir. With the increase in the scarcity of fuelwood, women and girls have to walk many miles to get ahead load of fuelwood every day. As we know that collecting fuelwood is a time consuming and exhausting task.

Women time burden for the collection of fuelwood tends to increase in cases where men migrate to urban centers in research of employment. Also, women can suffer serious long-term physical damage from strenuous work without sufficient recuperation. This risk, as well as the hazard of falls from the tree, insect bites, or human assault etc. rises steeply the further from home women have to walk.

Fuelwood scarcity places major demands on women and children‟s time, limiting their opportunities to obtain an education and undertake income-generating activities. An increase in the fuelwood collection time may force girls to drop out of schools to asset their mothers in households and other chores, thus hindering their education.

Fuelwood scarcity adversely affected women’s income-generating activities like-sewing, handicrafts etc. and direct impact on women health-rates of maternal death, impact on their participation in important activities like family planning programmes, health and nutrition programmes, participation in creating new laws and public policies.

Fuelwood scarcity also affects their cooking habits; women do not boil water enough, cook food items with the low nutritional value that require less cooking time. This in turn, affects family health.

Even though some substitutions are also available at some villages–dung cake, electricity, kerosene, in some cases LPGs etc. but people still preferred wood for preparing local dishes due to various economic, social and religious causes. But poverty and unemployment is the basic cause of why people mostly used fuelwood in developing countries especially in India.

Time burden of women may be reduced by providing modern fuels and stoves at highly subsidized rates to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and at moderate rates to middle-income families.

-by Mansoor Qadir, IT Crime, Bureau Chief, Jammu & Kashmir.