"First of It's Kind" | Gender and Energy Program Wins Award
August 28 2018

“First of Its Kind” Approach to Address Gender Gaps in the Sector

ESMAP congratulates the cross-disciplinary team of experts from the World Bank’s Energy and Extractives Global Practice and Gender Group, as well as ESMAP’s Africa Gender and Energy program, for winning the World Bank President’s Award for Excellence for their pioneering work to close gender gaps across Ethiopia’s electricity sector.

Ethiopia still has some of the lowest gender equality indicators in Sub-Saharan Africa - particularly in infrastructure sectors, such as energy. Often, the burden of energy poverty falls disproportionately on women and girls whose distinct roles and responsibilities in the household, market, and their communities can affect their access, control, and use of electricity services.

With support from the World Bank and ESMAP, the government of Ethiopia has launched a major reform of its energy sector to reach universal electrification by 2025. Within this context, the government is not only committed to ensuring that women and girls will benefit from modern electricity services and but also to creating equitable institutions.

Based on the idea that empowering women, including in the electricity sector, is smart economics, the team spearheaded the Closing Gender Gaps Across Ethiopia’s Energy Sector, an initiative that created a truly transformational way of looking at gender across the entire $1.5 billion World Bank energy portfolio in Ethiopia.

Through a sector-wide approach that included analysis of gender gaps, high-level policy advice, and mobilization of significant financial resources from the World Bank, a “first-of its kind” model was shaped together with development partners to support gender equality across the sector.  

Over a year-long process that involved desk research and in-depth country engagement the team delved into the fundamental reasons driving gender gaps in the electricity sector. Country data, combined with findings from consultations, workshops and discussions with the government, utilities, universities, businesses, women’s associations, micro-finance institutions and civil society organizations helped the team to identify existing gaps between women and men. These gaps centered on employment and leadership in technical fields, access to finance in the adoption of clean technologies, and exposure to gender-based violence at the workplace (GBV).

This crucial knowledge helped shape national policy, and to ensure sustainability, the government has embedded gender priorities in Ethiopia’s National Electrification Program, launched in November 2017. Gender actions now being implemented across the sector focus on:

  • addressing occupational sex-segregation across the sector utilities with over 14,000 employees
  • provision of child-care facilities in utility offices across all 11 regions of Ethiopia (a key impediment to female participation in the work force)
  • supporting career development of female candidates (support for STEM education) as well as ongoing management and leadership training
  • prevention of, and response to, GBV in the work place and project sites
  • promotion of female entrepreneurship in the off-grid market, as well as removal of productivity constraints of female entrepreneurs (access to finance), etc.

The initiative pioneered innovative approaches under a Program for Results (PforR) - a model that links disbursement of funds directly to the achievement of specific program results.  For example, funds are disbursed based on the results of the Ethiopian Electric Utility’s efforts to shift from ad-hoc actions to a programmatic approach that systematically addresses gender gaps through yearly actions with associated targets within a 5-year period. This has helped to leverage significant resources ($4.5 million) from the World Bank under the program to support gender equality and citizen engagement at the Ethiopian Electric Utility. 

The team’s comprehensive approach to closing the gender gaps across the electricity sector is now being championed by senior leaders. It has also opened the dialogue with a range of unique stakeholders such as the Ethiopia Climate Innovation Center (ECIC), the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and development partners such as Power Africa.