The heavy focus on technical aspects of renewable energy projects tends to overlook the vital gender aspects that can make or break the uptake of projects. In many cases, energy projects are treated as gender neutral based on the assumption that energy bottlenecks and solutions impact men and women in similar ways.
The failure to look at the distinct situation of women and men in relation to energy production, governance and use patterns can also result in people losing faith in renewable energy technologies.
Against this background, Hivos Southern Africa partners under the Green and Inclusive Energy (GIE) programme from Malawi and Zimbabwe participated in a three-day workshop aimed at equipping them with tools and knowledge to better integrate gender into their projects. Specifically, the training conducted by Hivos partner ENERGIA aimed at deepening participants’ understanding of gender social inclusion (GSI) and energy policy to enable them to explore key areas and entry points in the GIE partnership.
In both Malawi and Zimbabwe, overall socio-economic development is limited by the lack of modern energy services such as lighting, cooking and heating, refrigeration, pumping, transportation, and communications. Furthermore, energy poverty disproportionately affects women and girls in the two countries. As these countries embark on developing policy frameworks for renewable energy projects, there is a unique opportunity to make sure policies address gender-related issues to ensure success of the projects.
According to the UNDP, an important reason to focus on gender in energy projects in developing countries is that women are particularly affected by lack of accessible and affordable energy services because of their traditional roles, household responsibilities, and low social and political status.
A better understanding of the different ways men and women use energy in various cultures and locations can promote greater gender equity and empowerment of women, as well as enhance the effectiveness of energy projects.
The training enabled GIE partners from Malawi and Zimbabwe to understand GSI needs and goals as an energy policy planning tool. Participants were also introduced to tools for mainstreaming GSI in energy policy and advocacy.
During the workshop, participants analysed the unique roles that men, women, youth and other marginalized persons in communities play in the design and implementation of energy projects. The training also provided frameworks for addressing energy poverty by integrating gender and energy sensitivity into energy projects and policies.
The training emphasized that programmes and policies that explicitly address the gender and energy nexus will result in better outcomes in terms of the sustainability of energy services as well as the human development opportunities available to women and men.
It is anticipated that as a result of the training, our GIE partners will be able to bring about better development and energy outcomes that are gender specific and that address the needs of women in particular.