Making the Case for a Unified Energy & Gender Strategy for sub-Saharan Africa
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, and SDG7 “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”…may seem to be at opposite ends of the development spectrum. However since gender inequalities directly link to poverty, and access to energy facilitates economic advancement…energy access programs solely targeted to women, are essential to women’s economic empowerment.
There are several programs enabling energy access in rural and low-income urban areas in developing countries. These efforts usually take into cognisance, the fact that women bear the burden of energy poverty and set aside funds or develop initiatives to correct this gender imbalance. However, these initiatives are usually an offshoot or a subsidiary of a wider program, and unduly focused on mentoring or training women, as well as the ever popular “empowering women”. In the event funds are ever disbursed, they are reserved for the parent program, which will not count women in the majority of beneficiaries.
This is rife in sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, the Middle East and Central America, where millions of dollars in aid are channelled to entities to increase energy access, interspersed with economic and professional opportunities for women. Unfortunately this well-meaning gender sub-initiative, gets lost in the wider program and eventually neglected.
Speaking to sub-Saharan Africa specifically, the key challenges to gender equality are similar across the West, East, Central and Southern regions: Exclusion of women from the policy and regulatory consultation process for electricity programs; Lack of sensitive workplace policies; Limited or no access to funding; Time poverty, due to to time spent sourcing alternative means of energy in areas with limited or no energy access; Less access to land rights as a result of cultural and traditional barriers, which precludes women from seeking loans using land as collateral; Scarcity of female entrepreneurs in the sector; Fewer opportunities to network; Sexual harassment in male-dominated working environments…and so on.
Instead of the usual piecemeal approach to implementing mitigation measures, instituting a broad-based…