By Watmore Makokoba
Although there is notable progress in the renewable energy sector in Zimbabwe, there still exists gaps in terms of women participation and inclusion.
Women have expressed concern that despite the current energy policy framework comprising of the National Energy Policy of 2012 and current Renewable Energy Policy (REP) draft recognizing the importance of ensuring access to renewable energy by women and children, the framework has not been effective enough to actualize the same objective.
During the recent Women and Energy program held through support from Hivos Southern Africa during the Clean Energy Week 2017, women said because of the existing policy gaps, women are lagging behind in accessing and benefiting from renewable energy initiatives.
“Renewable Energy Policy is limited in its gender responsiveness; there is little recognition of differing roles and diverse needs that exist between women and girls, men and boys as regards energy access including existing energy deficiencies.
“The policy only considers women and children as renewable energy consumers that need energy to satisfy their socially ascribed roles but fails to recognise the roles women can play in the energy value chain,” said Pamela Mhlanga, Executive Director, Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network.
In March this year, Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre (ZWRC) commissioned a Rapid Assessment on gender and Energy in Zimbabwe themed ‘Advocating for gender equity and social inclusion in access and utilization of green and inclusive energy in Zimbabwe “which identified gaps and opportunities for women universal access to renewable energy.
“REP mentions gender mainstreaming but without accompanying clear goals, strategies and details on institutional framework for accomplishing the goals for gender equality in access to renewable energy,
“In addition, the technical nature of the policy documents makes it inaccessible to the general populace especially women and children”, reads the study report.
The study also indicated that men dominate energy projects implemented by government and non-governmental organisation thereby making women’s concerns remain peripheral.
“The intrinsic value of energy projects leads to their elite capture which side lines women , a majority of energy projects are not mainstreaming gender and therefore remain unresponsive to women’s energy needs,
“Due to the technical nature of the projects, a top-down approach is usually adopted for energy projects which undermines gender responsiveness,
“Women have limited access to information on entry points and strategies to participate in the renewable energy sector” reads the ZWRC Study report.
The Renewable Energy Policy document specifies that it “….targets for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and combating HIV and other infectious diseases” , however it does not fully explain how this will be achieved.
After realizing that disparities in energy distribution directly affects negatively on people’s health, education, livelihoods and employment, Hivos Southern Africa launched a five year strategic partnership with the Dutch Government beginning of 2016 to remedy the situation
“The Green and Inclusive Energy partnership focuses on lobby and advocacy that will influence the public and political debate on energy, with the ultimate aim of transitioning toward greener and more inclusive energy systems,
“Only then, will renewable energy become more available and widespread, so that the energy needs of women and men are met for their daily activities, livelihoods, education and health, creating economic opportunities and growth whilst mitigating climate change,” said Hivos.
Although energy is not explicitly mentioned in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) s, the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002 recognised that the provision of modern energy services was critical for the attainment of these goals.