AfDB roots for narrowing gender gaps in energy access

Written By: KBC correspondent

PHOTO | Courtesy

Gender-based information, including the specific amount of financial resources utilised to improve the status of women, men and children in addressing their energy and healthcare needs should be broken down to improve interventions towards energy access in the gender and energy sector, the African Development Bank has said.

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The Bank’s Regional Director for the East Africa Region, Nnenna Nwabufo, said the institution was championing the production of gender-specific statistics and knowledge products in order to assist countries to create the right environment for addressing the gender gaps.

Nwabufo said countries would be able to develop gender-responsive policies which factor in the special needs of the various population segments including women, those with special needs, men and the youth because energy is a crucial component of the basic needs used by the household.

“Energy is required for everyday use. With the right information on energy use we can raise awareness and generate attention on this issue which is critical to empowering women,” she said at a webinar on strengthening gender mainstreaming in the energy sector in Kenya.

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The Bank has been engaging top policymakers in Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, through a series of incisive gender and energy country briefs throwing the spotlight on how countries in the East African region have managed to factor in the energy needs of women and how government policies impact on women’s ability to access clean energy solutions for addressing their everyday needs.

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During the event which sought to launch the gender and energy country brief for Kenya, as well as publicise the results of a comprehensive audit on the gender and energy access policies in the country, the Director-General said the main objective of focusing on the status of women and men, and the disparities in their access to electricity was to stop energy poverty.

“We want to ensure that the energy poverty gap is closed, reduce the burden on women to collecting firewood, protect women and men’s health in reducing indoor air pollution, and encourage governments to provide essential services to all, especially in the health sector, in which women are disproportionately affected, noted Nwabufo.

Director of Planning at Kenya’s Ministry of Energy Timothy Gakuu, said while the government has been focusing on improving access to energy as the main thrust of its national development agenda, the ministry was making progress in integrating renewable energy into the government’s main sectoral responses.

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The mainstream energy sector interventions include policies which focus on linking gender issues as key elements in the government planning process.

The government is responding to the needs to improve women’s access to energy through the last-mile connection project, focused on increasing the number of households accessing electricity at all levels of the national distribution.

Gender expert Pheobe Makungu, who is also the Deputy Director for Gender and Development in Kenya’s energy ministry, and who carried out a review of the major policy interventions in the gender sector, attempted to respond to the question of whether the gender policies in Kenya were gender-sensitive.

Makungu said addressing the gender needs of women and men had direct link to addressing their health needs, education quality and promoting women’s access to electricity and other sources of clean energy.

“The promotion of women’s access to energy involves ensuring that women are not just beneficiaries of energy but they should also become suppliers of energy. By promoting access, we shall help in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” she said.

Makungu stated that there was no data to determine how women and men benefited from energy access and other interventions in order to clearly determine the exact impact of gender mainstreaming in the sector.

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The country brief calls for a clear assessment on gender mainstreaming, and the impact of the national laws which require at least 30 percent of positions to be allocated to women.

“There is commitment to gender mainstreaming in Kenya and the general legislation require representation of women in public decision-making. However, there is lack of adequate financial commitment and an analysis of the gender gaps is required,” Makungu said.

She emphasised the importance of developing a monitoring and evaluation system to ensure compliance with the legislative requirements which would promote compliance.

The monitoring system, Makungu told the workshop, should focus on tracking the budgetary allocations to the sector and encourage the government departments to specifically allocate budgetary allocation to the sector.

The event, which was convened by the AfDB, Climate Investment Funds and the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA), is the fourth, after similar ones held for Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania on 22nd, 23rd and 24th February 2021 respectively. They urged policymakers and practitioners to integrate gender in energy planning, implementation and monitoring.

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