Gender Framework for Bioenergy in Kenya

By Linda Davis Phd and Davina Ngei

There has been greater emphasis and recognition on designing gender-sensitive programs across the energy supply chain especially clean energy reaching the household level (cooking, heating and lighting) in low income communities over the last few years.

Women representation across the clean energy value chain is a key condition to accelerate success in clean energy entrepreneurship especially at the grassroot level. Women are primary energy managers within many homes in addition to being involved in Community Based Organizations and women’s networks. Women in many instances have decision making responsibilities or influence on household matters and can be champions of clean energy adoption within their communities.

While involving women across the value chain including design, manufacturing, retail and advocacy can be can be effectively achieved by organizations, its impact can be greater if governments played a key role.

Government and the acceleration of clean energy adoption

It is crucial to engage the government – both national and county, in energy planning and gender mainstreaming across the sector.

Governments should include in its gender frameworks proof points have been employed successfully by multiple organizations.  Governments and other stakeholders alike can use its reach to raise awareness for the need for women clean energy entrepreneurs. These opportunities should be made accessible not just within urban centers but across the rural areas as well.

While the ministries of gender may be sensitized to the problem of lack of energy access and the disproportionate burden it has on women, they lack the knowledge to implement the solutions presented to them. It therefore becomes crucial to provide technical support to the ministries, so that they can implement policies as a matter of urgency.  The Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship (wPOWER) has developed 8evidence proof points that can accelerate women’s involvement in clean energy entrepreneurship to eradicate both energy poverty and improve community livelihoods (Fig 1).

Gender and energy frameworks will be well served to allocate funds to make these entrepreneurial opportunities affordable to women who very often lack capital. Clean energy entrepreneurship should be seen as a viable and aspirational income generating activity, and this takes changes in community attitudes and cultures that have held women back for centuries. Most obviously, governments can take a lead advocacy role and create associated incentives e.g., tax breaks. Indeed, through its regulatory frameworks, governments can ensure that the clean energy products distributed within communities are acceptable both in terms quality and are adopted to community preferences without health and environmental impacts.

Fig 1: Evidence Proof Points for Government’s Involvement to Accelerate Clean Energy Access.

And we cannot fail to address the lack of collaboration at the county level, as many ministries do not understand the nexus of other development priorities with energy e.g. energy and health, energy and development and how these impacts their budgets. For example, lack of clean energy within households results in more visits to hospitals especially for women and children seeking costly treatments for respiratory conditions. Sensitizing the ministries of their cross-cutting roles while also providing expertise during energy planning to ensure inclusion into the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDP) now becomes vital. Doing so will create sustainable collaboration in mainstreaming gender in development plans and budgets.

Furthermore, engagement with the county governments need to be targeted, as well as streamlined to the overall priorities of the county. As implementers, we should make it easy for the county government to help accelerate our efforts.  Implementing Best Practices (Fig 2) at program levels is an essential way to support government efforts in the sector.

Fig 2: Best Practice for Successful Clean Energy Entrepreneurial Programs

Technical support, targeted engagements, streamlined projects, sensitization of ministries, and energy planning expertise are essential in enabling a conducive environment for women in clean energy entrepreneurship which in turn results in faster adoption of clean energy solutions.

wPOWER supports these actions as a way of developing a strong gender framework for bioenergy in Kenya and globally.