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The African Development Bank (AfDB), the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), and the United States-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have formed a partnership centered on linking gender and energy access.
The three jointly organised an inception workshop to launch a project about developing an ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access and its Implementation Strategy. The workshop was held on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Participants included AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender, AfDB’s Vice-President for Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, the Technical Advisor to Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister for Family, Women and Children and the Executive Director of ECREEE. Representatives from the respective Ministries of Energy of the ECOWAS member states, the ECOWAS Commission, partner institutions of ECREEE and other stakeholders attended.
The project aims at establishing a regional policy and its implementation strategy that will support the region’s energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. The ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access, the first of its kind globally, aims at addressing barriers that hinder the participation of women in energy access. Solomon Asamoah, AfDB’s Vice-President for Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration, acknowledged that “when we have energy and climate problems, it is usually women who suffer.” He emphasized that the policy must be “practical, effective and easy to follow” and further committed to ensuring that the policy would be implemented in the departments within his complex.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender, highlighted the need to ensure that there is an improvement in access and affordability of energy. She detailed how energy access must also be linked to trade and industry. In placing women at the core of the development agendas of AfDB and ECOWAS, she stressed that “if we want to make a difference, women must switch on the lights in Africa.”
Fruitful discussions were held throughout the course of the workshop. Sessions centered on critical topics, such as gender disparities in the energy sector and opportunities to leverage gender benefits, the project scope and methodology and mechanisms for building high-level support and ensuring stakeholder engagement for the project. Contextual realities, nuances and practical experiences in the ECOWAS region and elsewhere in Africa were shared with the aim of tailoring a distinct yet innovative project. AfDB further elevated the discussions through two pertinent presentations: “Energy Access and Gender in the context of the SE4ALL” by Florence Ventura, Energy Expert, SE4ALL Africa Hub, and “AfDB’s Gender Strategy 2014-2018 and the Implications for its Energy Sector Investments in ECOWAS” by Rachel Aron, Principal Social Development Specialist.
The workshop resulted in the establishment of a Project Steering Committee to provide technical guidance and oversight throughout the design of the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access and its Implementation Strategy. It was agreed that champions would be sought to heighten awareness on the significance of the project and its implications for the ECOWAS region. It was also agreed that AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender and the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender would assume a joint advocacy role for the benefit of the project.
An additional recommendation emerging from the workshop centered on the necessity for an extensive stakeholder consultation process that included beneficiaries, such as women and the youth. Once developed, a technical consultation will be held on the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access with varied stakeholders in April 2015. The policy is expected to be validated by the Ministers of Energy and Ministers of Gender of the respective ECOWAS member states in June 2015.