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Approaching Energy Access Differently

How West Africa Is Putting Women’s Interests on the Table

Thursday, March 16, 2017

International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to recognize cutting-edge work addressing women’s energy poverty. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh.
International Women’s Day, observed around the world on 8 March 2017, celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political empowerment and achievement of women. Among many other issues, International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to recognize cutting-edge work addressing women’s energy poverty. For example, in West Africa, ensuring universal energy access by 2030 is proving to be more than just a political proclamation; with support from the Clean Energy Ministerial’s (CEM’s) Clean Energy Solutions Center and its partners, West African countries are fast-tracking their energy access goals by putting women’s interests at the center of policy solutions.

In 2015, the CEM’s Clean Energy Solutions Center (Solutions Center) assisted the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the ECOWAS Department of Gender and Social Affairs—with the support of Power Africa—in designing a regional policy aimed at addressing barriers to women’s equal and meaningful participation in the expansion of energy access. The development of this groundbreaking policy and the Solutions Center’s continuing work on policy implementation is one example of how ECREEE, Power Africa, the CEM, and many other partners are putting women’s empowerment on the table and creating a more equitable energy sector across the African continent.

The unique, landmark ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access works to address the differential energy needs and concerns of women and men. ECOWAS energy ministers adopted the policy in December 2016, and the Solutions Center, with Power Africa’s support, is working to drive the implementation and replication of this policy across the continent.

The policy addresses the growing evidence that energy deprivation often has greater negative impacts on women. These negative impacts are driven mainly by women’s lower socioeconomic status and rights at the household and community levels, which limit a woman’s capacity to enjoy the same level of access to modern energy services as her male counterparts.

The policy has five central objectives: (1) creating widespread understanding of gender and energy issues through advocacy and awareness raising, as well as knowledge generation; (2) ensuring that all energy policies, programs, and initiatives are non-discriminatory, gender-inclusive, gender-balanced, and directed toward addressing inequalities; (3) increasing women’s participation in the energy industry public sector, both in technical and decision-making capacities; (4) ensuring that women, as much as men, have access to the same opportunities and resources to establish and run successful energy businesses; and (5) establishing and maintaining gender-responsive monitoring, accountability, and review frameworks for the objectives.

The policy reflects a growing belief around the world that the ideas and talents of all members of society are essential to accelerating progress toward a clean energy future. Gender diversity can drive innovation and bring fresh perspectives in leading communities toward cleaner sources of power. The CEM’s Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) initiative is dedicated to improving gender diversity globally by creating opportunities for greater women’s leadership in the clean energy sector.

The Executive Director of ECREEE, Mahama Kappiah, has championed gender equality as a critical piece of improving energy access. In the Situation Analysis of Energy and Gender Issues in ECOWAS Member States, 2015, developed by the Solutions Center in collaboration with ECREEE, Kappiah stated, “The next technology revolution is set to happen in the clean energy sector. If the existing barriers are not addressed now, and women given the support to be engaged in the sector, it would be a missed opportunity not just for women, but for the achievement of an inclusive and sustainable development.”

About the Clean Energy Solutions Center

The Clean Energy Solutions Center is a cross-cutting CEM initiative that provides national and subnational governments with no-cost clean energy policy and finance advisory support. The Solutions Center is co-led by the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy. Learn more at www.cleanenergysolutions.org.

This article is a modified version of a post that originally appeared on the ECREEE website on 8 March 2017: “Approaching Energy Access Differently: How West Africa Is Putting Women’s Interests on the Table.”

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