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Kenyan women seek more say in solving energy problems

Wednesday March 8 2017

Women carry firewood from Lower Imenti forest

Women carry firewood from Lower Imenti forest in Meru. Women leaders have resolved to form a new lobby to champion their right to access alternative energy sources that improve lives while reducing costs. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JAMES KARIUKI
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Women meeting to celebrate the International Women’s Day have resolved to form a new lobby to champion their right to access alternative energy sources that improve lives while reducing costs.

Meeting in Nairobi, the women leaders also resolved that they must be involved in decision making bodies at the national and county levels on matters of energy, saying this will boost their ability to contribute in coming up with eco-friendly solutions to energy needs.

The forum convened by a non-governmental development agency, Practical Action said the lobby, Women Economic Empowerment Works (Weeworks) campaign will spearhead efforts to empower women at all levels.

Practical Action Eastern Africa regional office Senior Gender and Energy Advisor Lydia Muchiri said the campaign originated from a realisation that access to affordable energy for cooking and lighting purposes helps gauge a society’s level of development.

WOMEN EXCLUDED

“Women make about 52 per cent of Kenya’s population but remain excluded in energy projects development and are in many cases not [given] a chance to acquire technical training or funded to undertake energy related courses,” she said.

Practical Action has in the past empowered women to form 700 self-help groups that have manufactured biomass briquette, solar and improved cooking stoves benefitting 495,000 beneficiaries in seven counties in Kenya.

Delivering the keynote address, principal officer for renewable energy in the Ministry of Energy John Maina expressed the government’s commitment to empowering women, saying access to energy is a key economic enabler that improves lives.

ENERGY PLANNING

“The Ministry of Energy [is] committed to enhancing participation of women in energy planning and delivery and prioritised high impact opportunities and initiatives on energy, women, children and health in its key policy and planning documents. This includes the use of modern cooking appliances and fuels to improve indoor air quality,” he said.

Kisumu County’s Energy and Mining Chief Officer Lilian Ogombo said allowing women to make decisions on matters energy has unlocked new energy businesses.

“Table banking has helped women groups finance energy enterprises now worth Sh3 million as well as helped fund installation of flood lights at market centres enabling women to prolong business hours for an extra coin,” she said.