Women Leading the Charge for Clean Energy in Kenya

By Tindi Sitati

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2018: #pressforprogress

As the world joins together on International Women’s Day 2018, to collectively #pressforprogress, we would like to celebrate two women who have used their leadership to inform processes aimed at bringing women to a clean energy path. Their stories demonstrate that women can serve as ideal agents of change who successfully spearhead the proliferation of clean energy.

Read their stories below as they talk about their work, and insights from their professional and personal experiences.

Please share on social media using the following hashtags: #PressforProgress #InternationalWomensDay


Sheila Oparaocha, ENERGIA International Coordinator and Programme Manager


Sheila Oparaocha, ENERGIA International Coordinator and Programme Manager. Photo credit: Adam Schultz


1. How can adoption of sustainable energy be accelerated through women’s leadership?

80% of businesses in the informal sector are run by women, and these applies to small and medium scale enterprises in the developing world.  I think the energy sector can be a spring board for which we can accelerate the delivery of energy services, especially through engaging small and medium women enterprises to deliver clean energy services.

Because women are managers of household energy use, they are a critical component of the sector’s efforts to scale up. Women drive demand and are ultimately the ones in control of whether or not products are fully adopted. Women as cookstove sellers, understand the priorities, incentives and benefits of the user. According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC), cookstoves that are sold by women are three times more likely to be adopted by households than cookstoves that are sold by men.

Women can show leadership by participating in decision making forums to articulate what their issues are. They can also document good practices and lessons learned, similar to what the Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER) is doing, through hearing from women leaders at entrepreneurship, grassroots, institutional and policy level and giving them a face and a voice to articulate what their issues are.

2. What are the opportunities for women in clean energy?

In Kenya today, devolution presents unique opportunities to develop policies that tackle energy poverty. Rural women can be engaged by county governments in energy planning, to ensure proper mechanisms are laid out that seek to promote better cooking and lighting solutions for improved health and economic benefits for their communities.

ENERGIA has a program that is supporting 4,000 female entrepreneurs to provide about 2.6 million people with sustainable energy services. We placed these women on the solar, cooking technologies and fuels’ energy value chain where we thought they were more dominant and had a comparative advantage to engage in energy markets and scale. I believe that there is an opportunity for women in larger solar home systems and minigrids. As long as we understand what it takes to make this energy markets work for women, and what it takes for women to work in these energy markets, we will be able to advance women’s engagement in the sector.

3. What inspires you to work in the clean energy sector?

I draw my inspiration from working with rural women who have made enormous contributions to their communities through renewable energy and are really at the front lines of energy access. Engaging with these women has helped me understand the issues that they are coping with and has created an opportunity for me to identify solutions that will make it work not only for themselves but their families and communities.

4. Which women have inspired you through the course of your life and how?

 I was privileged to meet Wangari Maathai at UN Commission on the status of women. I was amazed at how this humble African woman was able speak out about the energy challenges that women face today. I truly admire and look up to her.

I also look up to Radha Muthiah for putting the cooking energy on the global agenda, Rachel Kyte, a powerful speaker who is not afraid to go out and really challenge the most difficult issues and Dr. Linda Davis who articulates these energy issues at the highest levels and in a way that everyone can understand. Gender experts and founders of ENERGIA Elizabeth Cecelski and Joy Clancy, and the professor who supervised my master thesis Govind Kelkar  have been my role models and inspiration.


Dr. Linda Davis, Strategic Partnerships Director


Dr. Linda Davis, Strategic Partnerships Director. Photo credit: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC)


1. How can adoption of sustainable energy be accelerated through women’s leadership?

If women have access to sustainable energy, then their participation in the economy and ability to support their children will be enhanced. Women need to be integrated into all levels of the energy value chain. Most micro and small business owners in emerging markets are women. Enabling and empowering these women to start and build businesses makes just as much sense in the off-grid distributed clean energy sector (cooking and lighting) as it does in any other.

2. What are the opportunities for women in clean energy?

It is projected that there will be 16.7 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2030. Women, who make up 70 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion people in energy  poverty, can benefit from these career opportunities.

Access to reliable and affordable  electricity  and safer and reliable cooking methods, will provide these women both in the rural and urban areas  the ability to work outside their homes by approximately 23 percent due to more efficient home production in the form of lighting and modern cooking appliances.

3. What inspires you to work in the clean energy sector?

I have a passion for clean energy reaching every household  because I understand that  depletion of resources can lead to conflict. It is difficult to look at changes taking place on our planet today and not feel concerned.  I believe supporting nations in implementing policies that promote cleaner forms of energy can lead us to a more sustainable development path.

4. Which women have inspired you through the course of your life and how?

Ragna Árnadóttir, the Deputy CEO of Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company of Iceland.

I admire Wangari Maathai’s strength of conviction in the tense, fearful days when Kenya was struggling politically.

Hillary Clinton is not a quitter,  I deeply admire her strength and persistence.

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