There is an old saying “when you empower a woman you empower the society”. Gender equality has been a global conversation that has been part of the development agenda and was one of the goals under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG 3) on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
For a country to claim that there is economic development, it has to be accompanied by social equality. The involvement of women in economic development through empowering them to get involved in economic activities that have been looked at as a preserve of men is key. The energy sector for example has been one of the sectors that has been dominated by men for decades.
Women were looked at as consumers of energy but were not part of the production or entrepreneurs in the energy sector. This then raising the question, if women have been the largest consumers of energy would they not be a valuable asset as entrepreneurs or even producers of energy as they have the touch of the end user who understand the needs of the market which is what the producers should be striving to meet?
Kenya has not been left behind in making strides to ensure gender equality and promote the empowerment of women. The law provides for gender equality in employment in the public sector and also in procurement a practice the private sector is also fast adopting. The government through the Ministry of Energy has been in the forefront in promoting the involvement of women in energy. This is through a movement called the: Women in Energy which has advanced to having an annual award for women in energy which the Ministry has been very keen to support.
During the inaugural women in energy awards last year, the Ministry was keen to point out that the government through initiatives like the Access to Government Procurement (AGPO) and observation of the two thirds gender rule is committed to ensuring women have access to participation in the energy sector and are involved. The ministry emphasized that it was important for women to claim their space in the energy sector through the platforms that the government has created.
With the recent advancement in the discovery oil in Turkana, it is fundamental that women get involved in the energy sector as the country reaps the fruits of oil exploration through economic development.
Women involvement in energy is both at the technical level where women are employed as engineers or as managers in the energy sector or also empowered to be producers and distributors in the small scale renewable energy sector. Practical Action in partnership with Sustainable Community Development Services (SCODE) is implementing the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya (WEEK) project to build and expand businesses in three renewable energy markets: improved cook stoves, solar products, and biomass briquettes.
The overall objective is to strengthen women’s capacity to effectively participate in and benefit from energy markets.
During the launch of the Women Economic Empowerment through Energy (WEE-WORKS), Practical Action reported that as at the end of 2016, 748 women had been engaged in energy enterprises, 3376 jobs had been created and there were 495,677 beneficiaries of the women in energy empowerment program. Practical Action is looking at expanding the program and ensuring that women are not only looked as the consumers of energy but are also involved in the production and distribution in the energy sector supply chain.
In a sector largely dominated by men, social inclusion is needed to achieve equitable economic development and improved service delivery in all sectors of the economy. At the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC), women led enterprises in the energy sector such as Strauss Energy (solar), Powergen (solar), Village Industrial Power (steam), Kasigau Tree Farm (briquettes) and Takamoto (biogas) have women championing for the benefits of adopting renewable energy.
The case for involvement of women in the energy sector is very clear and bold. It is evident that there are opportunities in the energy sector and what remains is the creation of a road map to take full advantage of the opportunities. For us to report economic development then social inclusion has to be part of the development and thus the involvement of women in the energy sector cannot be ignored.
By Sarah Makena