Kathy Calvin: What have you learned from mothers you’ve met around the world and in the U.S.?
Radha Muthiah: It may be a mother in the U.S., Kenya, Ghana, or India, but fundamentally we have the same goals: to raise our kids and to help them do well and make the right choices for themselves in this world.
I’ve seen a kindred spirit and connection where mothers understand how challenging it can be, even though the challenging circumstances are different from region to region, and I think mothers are very interested in helping one another out if they can.
What motivates you personally to tackle the challenge of inefficient cookstoves day after day?
Personally, there are two reasons. One is that I’m Indian, originally from Malaysia, and whenever we would go to India to visit my grandmother, her biggest interest was in cooking our favorite foods for us.
She would use kerosene and charcoal, and she would be in her kitchen filled with smoke for hours on end. And I thought, I’ve come here to spend time with her, but she’s in the kitchen and it’s full of smoke and I don’t want to go in there. I distinctly remember the smell of the air and the smoke growing up. Now as an adult, having the ability and the opportunity and the privilege to be able to address this is amazing.
The other motivation for me is as a mother. I think I can safely speak for mothers around the world on this issue because when you have a child, you hope to protect, nurture, and educate that child.
I put myself in the position of one of these mothers who uses an open fire or traditional stove — she is cooking her food thinking that she is nurturing her child, but in that process, the smoke that is emitted actually can be incredibly toxic and harmful. She is putting herself at risk as she goes out to collect that wood, and if anything were to happen to her, then we’ve got children who are being raised without a mother. So those are some of the reasons that I think motivate all of us in this field and me personally to continue to try and make a difference.
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