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WNN Improve It

Monica from Peru

Monica from Peru is one of the women highlighted in Rodney Rascona’s film series: “Black Inside – Three Women’s Voices.” Image: Rodney Rascona

(WNN) Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES: In a cruel paradox that touches three billion lives daily, the mere act of preparing a family meal can prove life threatening. Nearly half the world still cooks over an open fire, yet this age-old method of cooking ranks as the planet’s fifth largest killer.

Chronic exposure to toxic smoke causes disabling diseases and results in a staggering two million deaths yearly — primarily women and young children. “BLACK INSIDE: Three Women’s Voices” is a new ongoing documentary film that shows directly how premature deaths of women can be prevented. Apart from the sheer numbers of women affected, the key to saving lives is astonishingly simple.

Rather than focus on the needless suffering associated with traditional cooking practices, documentary film director and photojournalist Rodney Rascona points to solutions. Rascona, who was named 2010 International Photographer of the Year for his photographs in the exhibition Deeper Perspective by the Lucie Foundation as he showed the people of Haiti from a perspective of dignity in his photojournalist work, “The Pink Door Photographs,” brought a poignant collection of iconic portraits featuring earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince.

Today faceless millions of women who are now breathing toxic fumes in regions that span the developing world, are facing impacts from smoke induced disease. The issues with clean cookstoves is a life-or-death issue.

Undertaking arduous journeys to remote areas on three continents to document stories of strong resilient women who have been personally affected by toxic fumes everyday, Rascona and his production team followed three women as part of an ongoing series of films that clearly show how substituting clean and efficient cookstoves can dramatically transform the quality of a woman’s life. Through an informed and compassionate lens we come to know the women’s aspirations and new-found hope for a family’s health and future, as clean-burning stoves become part of a solution to disease.

Sarah lost both her mother and sister to lung cancer. “The old stoves, they make this world black. They also make us black inside,” says the Gabra tribeswoman, who tends to her family in a small village located in the drought-ravaged lands of Kenya’s northern deserts. “If it was my wish, everyone would have a clean cookstove.”

Cooking with traditional wood-burning stoves is not limited to rural environments, however. In Vandana’s urban home not far from the Nepal border in bustling, color-drenched India, the benefits of her new stove are, literally, cause for celebration.

And finally, half a world away we meet soft-spoken Monica, a potato farmer whose humble, dirt-floor dwelling is perched on the mist-shrouded cliffs of the Peruvian Andes.

In addition to saving countless lives, clean cookstoves empower women by saving time and money — scarce resources in developing nations. Despite vast geographical and cultural differences, the three women share a common desire to use these precious gifts to invest in their children, improve the lives of others, or even generate much-needed income. “Something,” Vandana declares triumphantly, “that shows that we matter.”

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) is an initiative led by the United Nations Foundation and launched at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “BLACK INSIDE: Three Women’s Voices,” commissioned by the GACC, is a nine-minute documentary which lends an intimate perspective to an urgent global public health and environmental challenge.

To view “BLACK INSIDE: Three Women’s Voices,” please visit http://www.blackinside-thefilm.com/.

The GACC supports the adoption of clean and safe cooking solutions as a way to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance’s goal calls for 100 million households to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.