Women in Kenya may not be reaping the benefits of clean energy

No one’s life should be limited by how they cook. Yet globally, three billion people depend on polluting, open fires or inefficient stoves to cook their food, harming health, the climate, and the environment.

Numbers from the Clean Cooking Study 2019 report show that in Kenya alone, Eight Million households are stilling using firewood as their main fuel to cook those meals. The ones who depend on LPG stand at 2.4 million and another 1 Million households rely on charcoal. 

But a new research by energy experts Ashden, says hat it is poverty and gender inequality that is limiting the adoption and impact of Clean sustainable energy, especially for rural women.

These challenges, warned Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb, could prevent Kenya from attaining its goal of universal energy access by 2022. 

She stressed that, Even though the country has already committed to achieving 100% modern clean cooking by 2030, the transition must be carried out in a way that also improves the lives of women.

As a result, Kenya has put measures that will ensure that various stakeholders and the public are consulted.

Every year millions of people around the world connect to clean energy via solar home systems and microgrids. But Ashden’s new research into off-grid energy and gender dynamics carried out in Tanzania from 2017 to 2019, found many families cannot afford to power labor-saving & Environmental Friendly appliances of benefit to women – and that account ownership generally lay with men.

The study involved 1260 household surveys, 16 focus groups and 66 semi-structured interviews in the regions of Kagera and Morogoro.

It further revealed that most interaction with solar companies, from buying a system to getting training on how to fix it, was done by men.

The research did find that a limited number of women had improved their earning potential through access to solar energy – and that many now enjoyed greater flexibility in their day, as well as the benefits of television, radio, and electric lights.

Countries must tackle wider issues

Despite its far-reaching benefits, clean cooking is too often seen as a second-tier priority. The level of funding and investment in the sector is way low if you consider the magnitude of the challenge.

“Countries aiming for 100% energy access must tackle the wider issues that stop women getting the full benefit of clean, modern electricity. Solar energy can have a powerful impact in poor communities, but only if products and services meet people’s needs. And even then, it won’t transform lives on its own,” Lamb said at the ongoing Clean Cooking Forum in Nairobi while launching the study.

“We’re calling on solar companies, politicians and NGOs to really listen to women – whether designing national policy or visiting a rural family to make a sale.”

A renewed effort in energy access is more vital than ever, as Energizing Finance – a report released this month by Sustainable Energy for All – reveals. It shows investment in sustainable energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa is weak and, in some cases, declining. 

Ashden has released selected findings from its own research ahead of the full publication later this year.

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