Ideas & Debate

How clean energy can open livelihood opportunities for women and girls

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Summary

  • Improving business opportunities in energy for women is additionally one of the vital markers of achievement of the UN sustainable goal (SDG 5) — gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
  • Owing to gender and sociocultural norms, women in many communities have the primary responsibility for household cooking.
  • Developing countries such as Kenya, mostly rely on use of traditional stoves and fuels, wood fuel collection, and fuel processing.

The economic empowerment of women has been demonstrated to be key to spurring development and decreasing destitution.

Improving business opportunities in energy for women is additionally one of the vital markers of achievement of the UN sustainable goal (SDG 5) — gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

Owing to gender and sociocultural norms, women in many communities have the primary responsibility for household cooking. Developing countries such as Kenya, mostly rely on use of traditional stoves and fuels, wood fuel collection, and fuel processing.

While these bear a disproportionate share of the harmful health risks from household air pollution, they are also subjected to the time poverty associated with traditional household cooking, leading to opportunity costs, including less time for education, rest, leisure, and engaging in income-generating activities.

Similarly, children who tend to spend most of their time with their mothers indoors, suffer an inconsistent share of the adverse health risks. Also, children born to such mothers may suffer from low birth weight and stunting. Besides, many children, particularly girls, may skip school to help their mothers with fuelwood collection and food preparation.

Beyond this, evidence from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees shows that risks of physical injury and violence associated with women’s fuel collection involvement are endemic. Women and girls must often walk long distances to obtain cooking fuel and, as a result, face an increased risk of physical and sexual violence.

There are significant socio-economic impacts due to the opportunity cost of spending several hours per day gathering fuelwood. In developing countries, women and children are responsible for fuel collection, which is a time-consuming and exhausting task.

According to the WHO, women can suffer serious long-term physical damage from strenuous work without sufficient recuperation. A study found that in India, the use of clean cook stoves results in a reduction of 23 percent hours spent collecting fuelwood.

According to the UN Millennium Development Goal report, there are important development benefits to be gained through expanding access to modern development services, meaning that access to clean energy is a key to the achievement of the SDGs.

Kenya has included clean energy and cooking solutions in policy statements such as the Big Four Agenda, Vision 2030, third Mid-Term Plan (MTP III), National Climate Change Action Plans (NCCAP) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Notably, it also established the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) under the 2010 Constitution as an avenue for promoting enterprises and value addition initiatives among certain disadvantaged segments of the population which include women.

However, investing in clean cooking solutions will also contribute abundantly to environmental conservation and climate change mitigation initiatives.

The adoption of clean cooking technologies would reduce the country’s annual disease burden attributable to indoor air pollution from about 49 percent to 20 percent, constituting a significant contribution to their health, well-being and household work delivery through reduction of the number of time women and girls spend collecting fuelwood.

With regard to environmental considerations, the adoption of clean cooking solutions will support the government’s initiatives targeting the restoration of the country’s forest cover of 10 percent up from the current seven percent.

Women are a basic power for reasonably overseeing natural resources and increasing clean energy access, which helps battle environmental crisis and improves livelihoods and wellbeing. Ineffective cooking regularly influences women and children who spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. There is both a solid reason and potential to expand clean energy access and affordability and to drive development through involving women in the clean energy value chain.

To scale the adoption of clean cook stoves and fuels, women must play critical roles, because of their central responsibility for cooking and managing household energy. In addition to deciding whether to use clean cooking products, women can catalyse the market as micro and small enterprise owners through the distribution and delivery of clean cooking technologies that will contribute to the creation of a thriving global market.

Furthermore, women can leverage their existing networks to promote the adoption of these new technologies and use their first-hand experiences in marketing solutions.

In areas where there are high levels of gender inequality, female sales agents can directly reach women who cannot readily access cities or markets. This can be done through valued female associations such as chamas.

Given the central role played by women and girls in getting fuel for cooking, empowering women and other vulnerable groups in society to better manage their daily chores of procuring the requisite energy and promoting clean cooking technologies would yield tremendous benefits to them as well as contribute to the realisation of the SDGs.

Njugi is the CEO Clean Cooking Association of Kenya.