The Climate Parliament and UNIDO co-organised the event on 21st July with co-sponsorship of the Pan-African Parliament. Legislators from Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Seychelles, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe discussed the gender perspective of rural electrification with Dr Margaret Matinga, technical adviser at Energia, an international network on gender and sustainable energy.
Ms Matinga presented DFID-funded research on women’s access to energy conducted in India, Nepal and Kenya. Across these countries, women are less likely than men to have access to any form of electricity. However, when women and men have the same training and opportunities in the energy sector, women tend to be more efficient. Including women in all aspects of rural electrification and clean cooking has been found to be
beneficial not just to women but to all stakeholders. Women included in the energy sector give more money to educate their daughters. Women involved in the decision-making process tend to deprioritize their personal needs according to gender norms. As men already have the infrastructure and capacity to use the energy, the access to electricity often reinforces the gender gap.
There is a case for legislative actions: ministries and parliamentary committees must become high-level champions for gender. Legislation should set clear targets for gender-responsive energy agendas, supported by appropriate levels of investment. The post-COVID-19 recovery packages represent an opportunity to include women in sustainable energy. Work policies must respond to women’s needs in energy companies, and help increase inclusion and leadership of women. In order to assess women’s needs, electrification must be combined with clean cooking access and electrification of community facilities such as water supply, health facilities, schools and community centres.
The parliamentarians discussed the links between energy issues and health care provision, education, transport, etc., and their impacts on women’s lives. The COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns dramatically increased women's burdens in their households. There is an urgent need to provide financial business opportunities for women. A way to overcome bureaucratic inertia is to provide ministers with a menu of action, so they can select their priorities. In parallel, efforts should be made at the local level by allocating more budget resources to communities and raising awareness of energy and its benefits, thus making electrification a central issue of the political agenda.