The Africa Electrification Initiative (AEI) held a practitioners' workshop in Dakar, Senegal on November 14-16, 2011 on ground-level implementation of institutional approaches to electrification, with particular focus on the experience of rural energy agencies and rural energy funds in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the sessions at the workshop reviewed the early results from pilot countries on integrating gender into energy operations. The workshop was co-organized by the Rural Electrification Agency of Senegal (ASER), the European Union Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEI PDF), and the Africa Energy Unit of the World Bank through support from the Africa Renewable Energy Access Program (AFREA) and the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).
Aliou Niang, Director General of ASER, opened the session on "Integrating Gender into Energy Operations" by discussing the substantial drudge work that women in rural communities face in their daily lives, such as the collection of fuelwood. If this drudgery can be reduced they can be freed up to spend their time on more productive activities, he said.
The session highlighted the new approaches taking place in Mali and Tanzania to systematically integrate gender into energy projects. These approaches involve working with the rural energy agencies to identify local champions to introduce gender issues in project planning, consulting with both women and men and doing assessments to understand the needs and opportunities at the ground level – in villages and communities, and developing a time-bound and resourced action plan. One of the founding pillars of AFREA’s Gender and Energy Program is to learn by doing, piloting approaches through dialogue with energy practitioners, agencies and policy makers.
During the session, a consistent message emerged from the rural energy agencies: work on gender is already taking place within energy programs, but it is not systematic or monitored, therefore the introduction of a more strategic approach to integrating gender would allow for sustainable outcomes.
Emma Niang, the newly appointed gender focal point for Mali’s rural energy agency, AMADER, noted that at the national level there was already good progress on gender, with a national gender budget established and gender being integrated into budgeting for programs. However, she added that there was more work to be done and pilots to be launched in several villages, based on the findings of a recent gender and energy assessment carried out by ESMAP/AFREA teams.
For example, the assessment found that the number of women actively involved in using electricity for income-generating activities is relatively limited when compared to the total users. During the field visits, it was possible to see both men and women using electricity for productive uses as well as visiting women owned small businesses that benefited from electricity, such as sewing shops, beauty parlours, restaurants and the selling of chilled drinks or ice through refrigeration. However, the weak direct participation of women in electrification programs is one factor that diminishes the effectiveness and sustainability of these small businesses. Involving both men and women in the design of electrification programs, and identifying ways to overcome barriers to credit or technology can further extend the benefits of electrification within rural communities to both women and men.
Justina Uisso of Tanzania’s Rural Energy Agency (REA) pointed out that it is important to understand the different roles men and women often play in regards to decision-making about rural electrification in their communities. She said that REA already was thinking about gender issues, but did not yet have indicators or targets relating to gender in its work.
It was noted during the session that when discussing gender, it is always important to talk about both men and women – one of the participants pointed out that the men of his clan in Tanzania are responsible for collecting fuel wood, so drudge work is not always exclusive to women.
The workshop was part of the Gender and Energy work being done by the Africa Renewable Energy Access Program (AFREA), funded by ESMAP. The session was well attended, with participants representing agencies from across Africa. The session showcased the work being done in Mali and Tanzania. Activities are also ongoing in other countries, including Senegal, Kenya and Benin, and may expand to Liberia and Mozambique.
Presentations given at the workshop can be downloaded below.