A2017 statistical review by the International Energy Agency shows that about 600million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity and rely on traditionalenergy sources like wood, charcoal, dung and agricultural residue for cookingand heating. And according to the World Health Organization, many people use toxicalternatives like kerosene and paraffin, which can cause burns and respiratoryillness. Accordingto the World Bank, 70 percent of people without access to energy in the worldare women and girls. A recent study by the UN Women shows that women face the worstconsequences from lack of access to clean and modern energy particularly indeveloping countries – women have to go through time-consuming and physicaldraining task of collecting firewood and other sources of fossil fuel forenergy.
UN Womenbelieves that women are very critical to the eradication of global poverty. According to the World Bank, if all women hadequal access to productive resources, up to 150 million fewer people would gohungry every day. Accordingto Solar Sister, a women-led solar company working to eradicate energy poverty statesthat access to renewable energy technologies, such as a basic solar lantern to those as advanced as a stand-alone solar homesystem, can make a great difference in the life of a woman.
From cost savings, time savings and more hoursof light to run a business – the ripple effect is truly impressiveTo increase womenaccess to renewable energy, women should be encouraged to adopt clean energytechnologies by becoming end users – taking them away from traditional energysources to clean and renewable energy technologies. Women stand to benefit alot from this transition which includes: having access to solar lanterns toreplace smoky kerosene lamps; clean cookstoves to replace traditional burning stovesand reduce indoor air pollution; solar-powered rural hospitals to improve healthcare services, refrigeration of vaccines leading to reduction in maternal deathand diseases; and solar-powered borehole for clean water. Beyond end users,women can be encouraged to become entrepreneurs either using the renewableenergy technologies to scale their business or becoming distributors. An exampleis Solar Sister approach engaging rural women at all level of energy sales anddistribution.
Womenshould also be encouraged to take policy-making positions in the sectorspecifically to drive decentralized renewable energy. There are a few examplesof women who are in leadership positions and effective thought leaders helpingto shape the sector. Anexample is the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Nigeria’s lead agencysaddled with the responsibility of providing electricity to rural communitiesheaded by a woman for the first time in history. Damilola Ogunbiyitook the reins as Managing Director and CEO in 2017. In her firstsix months in office, she has been able to deploy several decentralizedoff-grid electrification solutions in various rural communities inNigeria. She is also a committed advocate for women in the sector –mentoring female employees who are driving most of the agency’s initiatives andprograms.Anotherexample is the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, with two women on theboard of executive as Vice President (Habiba Ali) and Treasurer (Hannah Kabir)helping to shape the sector. Another prominent voice in the sector is AnitaNana Okuribido, the National President of the Council for Renewable EnergyNigeria (CREN), a solar industry veteran who is helping to drive development inthe sector.
Thereare also women in C-suite positions – becoming their own developers anddistributors and finding unique ways to provide electricity to those at thebottom of the pyramid and reaching last mile communities There are at least afew solar companies that are owned or run by women which includes: Ajima Farms,a waste-2-watt initiative which is using biogas to generate electricity for off-gridrural communities led by Fatima Ademoh; Azuri Technologies, an internationalsolar company with presence in Nigeria and Africa led by Vera Nwanze; SosaiRenewable Energy, a leading solar company addressing energy poverty in ruralcommunities; Creeds energy, a prominent indigenous renewable energy company ledby Hannah Kabir; and Petra Uche, who is a director at Astevens Group, a leadingindigenous renewable energy company. Accordingto USAID, studies in other sector have shown that investing in women and girlshas a positive impact on productivity and sustainable growth. Improving women’saccess to the renewable energy sector leads to improved development outcomesbeyond the sector, including economic growth and better lives for family.
How dowe get more women interested in the renewable energy sector and choosing DRE asa career path?Movingforward, companies, government, and CSOs can encourage women and girls to enterthe sector through scholarship, grants, recognition, and awards. Another way isto raise awareness about the job opportunities available to women in the sector– is key to recruiting more women into the sector. Power for All is a global campaign to promotedistributed renewable energy as the key to achieving universal energyaccess. The campaign is active inNigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe, aswell as at the global level with over 125 partners from 22 countries. We workwith government, the private sector, investors and civil society to create anenabling environment for distributed renewable energy market growth globallyand in Nigeria. We believe that gender issuch a critical part of achieving energy access and rural development. Through ourMarket Women development program, we are building the capacity of existing ruralwomen entrepreneurs to be DRE entrepreneurs either as productive users or as salesand last mile distributors of solar products.