Energy poverty: Women suffer most

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THE Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN), together with Zero, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Development Reality Institute (DRI) and Action 24 recently launched the Gender and Energy Network in Zimbabwe (GENEZ), and showcased a mini fair of women in energy enterprises.
The mini fair and dialogue was held under the theme ‘Women Unlimited – Doing Business in the Energy Sector’.
Energy is a cross-cutting issue which affects all sectors of the economy.
In Zimbabwe, participation and representation of women and children in energy-related discussions is minimal, yet they are the hardest hit by energy poverty.
In fact many women and girls walk long distances to fetch firewood for use in households.
Some school-going girls even miss some of their lessons as they are expected to first fetch firewood before going to school.
And a closer look at the health repurcations shows that exposure to wood smoke can aggravate lung disease, asthma and acute bronchitis and respiratory infections, among other diseases.
Smoke also gives challenges to people prone to allergies, e.g. itchy eyes.
Long-term exposures (months or years) have been associated with problems such as reduced lung function and the development of chronic bronchitis – and even premature death.
Some studies also suggest that long-term exposure may be linked to cancer and harmful developmental and reproductive effects, such as infant mortality and low birth weight.
In the interest of making visible issues related to gender and universal energy access, particularity renewable energy access, ZWRCN, in partnership with HiVOS, re-established GENEZ.
The GENEZ seeks to empower children, youth and women through skill development workshops, training programmes, awareness campaigns, increased local participation in energy projects and campaigns.
The network also seeks to increase participation of women and children in energy-related programming, bridging the gap between the energy-related policy frameworks and their implementation.
A key area of focus for the GENEZ is to spearhead lobby and advocate on gender issues with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), focusing on energy, addressing the lack of synergy amongst the CSOs and other stakeholders such as the private sector, in energy programming.
In the process of bringing together CSOs, ZWRCN has developed a virtual library to build the knowledge base of Green Industry Expo (GIE) partners and other stakeholders on gender and energy issues.
The e library is made up of various documents that include research papers, opinion pieces, policy briefs, training materials and statistical information.
Available evidence reveals the paucity of women entrepreneurs in the energy sector.
Not only is the sector male-dominated, there is little by way of financing aimed at promoting women centred initiatives as retailers, distributors or manufacturers of energy technologies.
This makes it important to showcase good practices of women making inroads in terms of doing business in the sector.
Equally important is the need to create a platform for them to share ideas and experiences of undertaking profit-making ventures in this important sector.
The ZWRCN and partners are therefore planning to host a mini fair to showcase their achievements, and provide an opportunity for them to network and engage with different stakeholders.
Dialogue between women and different players in the energy sector is on the cards.
It will include actors in the finance sector, Government technocrats, and the legislature.
The purpose of the dialogue is to explore how current energy policies and laws are impacting on the lives of women doing business in the sector and where the challenges and opportunities lie.
In an interview with The Patriot, Wellington Madumira, an official with ZERO Regional Organisation said such opportunities help women take part in energy issues.
“Opportunities like this help discuss gender issues in energy,” Madumira said.
“We have realised that women are the most affected and energy issues have a buy-in from women which is why they need to engage in such discussions.”
The GENEZ is a network that seeks to increase participation of women and children in energy related issues.
It also seeks to make visible issues related to gender and universal energy access, particularity renewable energy access with the aim of attaining the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 and related policy commitments.

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