Women’s participation and empowerment in renewable energy projects

October 10, 2013

From 20 to 23 September 2013, over 100 women gathered together in New York to discuss and raise awareness on the topic of climate change and women at the first International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit (IWECS). All over the world, women are dealing with climate change related problems. It is time to act, and move beyond the (Scientific) debate, argue the women participating in the IWECS.

Mainstreaming gender includes specific activities and affirmative action on the basis of equal opportunities for women and men. Gender is an important aspect of renewable energy programmes because innovations around cooking address some of the women’s main energy needs. In the case of traditional, wood-based cooking, the negative impacts on health and the environment – greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation – are severe. Health problems related to wood-based cooking, such as respiratory problems, eye infections and burns, affect women and children the most. The soot and smoke produced by firewood causes 2 million deaths a year of mostly women and children.

Another reason to improve cooking methods is the consequent reduction in women’s workload. Women could save some five hours a day by not having to forage for firewood. This time can be used for other activities: social contacts, rest or income-producing work that increases the family income.

Therefore, Hivos has decided to incorporate gender-specific goals related to productivity in both its own cookstove programmes and its joint biogas programmes with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. These programmes not only aim at energy access and entrepreneurship, but also at women’s mainstreaming and empowerment.

The programmes focus on improved cookstoves and biogas digesters to increase clean cooking and renewable energy access. This is done with the development of a commercially viable, market-oriented biogas sector.

In addition, Hivos is working on increasing needs-based project planning, intensifying women’s involvement in decision-making and management of projects, and putting more focus on working with and strengthening women’s groups. This is combined with awareness-raising interventions and programmes as part of Hivos’ focus on women’s empowerment, and gender equality and mainstreaming, in all its activities.