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African governments advised to include gender in energy policies

As Africa takes on massive energy developments it has been challenged to include gender issues in all the necessary policies as one of the ways to alleviate poverty on the continent.
Experts attending a regional workshop on gender and energy in Kampala suggested creating partnerships between government and civil society in working on mainstreaming gender in energy in order to address poverty reduction.

The workshop that brought together key players in the energy sector from civil society and government in Africa noted that projects to improve energy services have often been inadequate appreciating the natural gender disparities in energy needs. This has led to new energy strategies being inappropriate for women. Gender differences and inequalities have consequences for energy needs, use and priorities. The burdens related to lack of adequate energy services fall disproportionately on woman compared to men. Women are the ones who spend long hours in search of firewood and are most affected by indoor air pollution from cooking traditional fuels. Key concerns include the way their needs differ as well as their decision making power.

“Due to the tasks we under take, women are the most users of energies in homes,” the chairperson, East African Energy Technology Development Network - Uganda, Dr. May Sengendo. Sengondo added: “But to what extent are they the decision makers in regards to energy uses? And how do we ensure that they participate in decision making as end users? She argued further that: “In terms of the budgets to what extent are the different sectors dealing with gender allocated the appropriate funds? To what extent do we take into account the contribution of woman and men energy technologists? How do we consider and adopt indigenous energy knowledge for efficient technological and energy uses to address the needs of women and men? “

The International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA) workshop held from November 29 – December 1, 2006 and the first of its kind since 2000 sought to strengthen capacity and promote networking on gender and energy for poverty alleviation in Africa was attended by participants from 13 African countries (Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The overall objective of the workshop was to strengthen networking among members with the region in ways which enhance their capability to contribute to the promotion of gender energy actions fro poverty reduction at national, regional and international levels. The ENERGIA Africa network has set the agenda for gender and energy within the network and globally. Africa is the first continent to carry out energy audits in the world. The gender audits Sengondo said have looked at gender responsive energy policies and programmes. “Where is the problem? When do energy planners find it easy to mainstream gender in energy planning; why do they sometimes find it difficult? What are the gaps? What is already available in the policy?

ENERGIA has been engaged since 1996 in research, capacity building and advocacy to engender energy and empower women. ENERGIA links organizations and groups concerned with energy, sustainable development and gender. Its goal is to contribute to the empowerment of rural and urban poor women through a specific focus on energy issues. An important objective of ENERGIA’S Phase 3 that ends this year has been the decentralization and regionalization of activities through support to emerging national and regional networking initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The process of regionalization in Africa began in 2000, with the establishment of the regional network, ENERGIA Africa, through a regional consultative process in Nairobi, Kenya. ENERGIA Africa exists as an informal network of governmental, non-governmental, and research organizations working on energy and sustainable development issues in sub-Saharan Africa, whom share agreed principles on gender, women’s empowerment and sustainable development. One of the main constraints of ENERGIA Africa’s activities has been the lack of resources to support a second regional consultative process to take stock of the network’s progress and articulate its plans for the future. The Kampala workshop was a necessary step to its activities forward.

Additional information: Energia web site
News date: 07/12/2006

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