Ensuring that women and girls have energy access is not just about women’s rights, it’s a fundamental human rights issue. A number of quantitative and qualitative studies have shown that clean energy access is linked with better chances for girls to complete primary education and for women to earn better wages, while it also contributes to a reduction in gender-based violence.
What clean energy access can do for women is only half the story. There is a strong case for what women can do to expand clean energy access and to fight on the front lines against climate change.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that about 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity and rely on traditional energy sources like wood, charcoal, dung and agricultural residue for cooking and heating. Relief Web further estimates that 70 per cent of people living in poverty in rural areas are women and girls and lack of access to energy constitutes a large part of this poverty. A recent United Nations study shows that women face the worst consequences from lack of access to clean and modern energy, particularly in developing countries. Women have to go through the time-consuming and physically draining task of collecting firewood and other sources of fossil fuel for their daily energy use. Furthermore, the World Health Organization, further states that there is noticeable rise in pollutant-based diseases, which includes respiratory illness.
Empowering women in Nigerian with renewable energy to power up their businesses will bring significant changes to economic activities to the country.
Women play a major role in agricultural practices, exposing them to solar-powered technology will go a long way to improving their economic and social status.
The decentralized renewable energy (DRE) revolution in Nigeria has women playing central roles in the quick and broader adoption of clean energy. Women in Nigeria are driving the DRE movement, as investors, solar business owners, workers, policy-makers and entrepreneurs, owning rural DRE powered micro-enterprise. From cost savings to time savings and more hours of light to run their homes and business – the ripple effect is truly impressive.
Beyond being just end users of DRE products, women entrepreneurs will use renewable energy technologies to scale their businesses or become solar distributors. These transitions come with clear, direct benefits such as the replacement of smoky kerosene lamps with solar lamps; transition from firewood and charcoal stoves to cleaner cook stoves. The impacts and benefits are also being seen in the reduction of indoor air pollution, solar-powered maternity and rural healthcare centers, and the availability of refrigerated vaccines which is leading to significant reduction in maternal death and diseases, and solar-powered boreholes for pumping clean water. More women will have to be recruited, trained and mentored as distributors and entrepreneurs in the market, with each woman earning a mark-up for selling a catalogue of solar energy and clean cook stove. Even more women are taught to deploy these systems for productive usage from fisheries to agricultural production and cold storage to starting solar-powered kiosks.
Women play a key role in the use of renewable energy in alleviating energy poverty, they are an underutilized resource in the energy services delivery process. As the fastest growing cohort of entrepreneurs and business owners in Nigeria and many developing countries, involving women in energy projects, energy research, policy and analysis is essential. In curbing energy poverty in Nigeria, the following recommendations are strongly suggested: Employ and utilize women participation in the energy value chain. This can be achieved by training them on soft skills on energy access programmes.
Jonathan Emmanuel is the IT/Programme Assistant, Climate Transformation and Energy Remediation Society