We are so poor : an investigation into the lives of ten women living in an informal area in the Durban Functional Region with particular reference to the role of domestic fuels.
This dissertation explores the texture of women's lives in an urban informal area, with the particular aim of highlighting their use of domestic energies in the absence of their access to electricity. The investigation into domestic fuel usage is situated within the context of other basic needs: shelter, water and food and the acquisition of these. Each is separately explored. The domestic fuel sources used by the women were primarily paraffin and candles. The dissertation argues that there is no simple equation between household income and fuel purchase but that the acquisition of food and fuel are mutually dependent and contingent upon a complex set of variables which include the perceived physical and emotional well-being of the woman and her household. Furthermore the dissertation argues that given the extent of informal settlements and poverty nationally, candles and paraffin are likely to continue to be extensively used in the future. despite their disadvantages and the desirability of electricity. The dissertation submits that the reasons for this pertain to the accessibility and relative affordability of paraffin to households whose buying power is constrained as much by the form in which their income is derived as by its inadequacy. These arguments are elucidated through case studies of ten women who live in non-electrified homes in Canaan. The women concerned monitored their consumption of and expenditure on water, food, and fuel for a month, and met once a week as a group while they were doing so. Finally the dissertation suggests that national energy planners should take into account the manner in which women perceive and manage their housekeeping roles, particularly cooking, as well as the form in which household income is derived in order to determine strategies and energy policies which would would be women-friendly and support the needs of the extensive numbers of impoverished households in South Africa.