Girls learn how to assemble a solar lantern in a UN-Habitat hands-on training on energy efficiency and renewable energy, Nairobi, 2013. The knowledge gained gives the girls an opportunity to develop profitable green businesses. (see article on the training). On International Women's Day, UN-Habitat highlights the important role played by women and girls in urban energy issues and renews our commitment to strengthen and expand our efforts to bring access of modern energy to women.
Sustainable energy powers opportunity. Yet 1.2 billion people -one in five globally- lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business. Twice that number -nearly 40 per cent of the world's population- rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their food, breathing in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and kills nearly 2 million people a year, most of them women and children. This remains a major health concern and equitable human development cannot be achieved as long as women and girls continue to lack access to modern energy sources. Clean and efficient cooking energy has to become an energy policy priority, to release women from the drudgery of collecting and using traditional fuels.
Women are mostly invisible in the energy sector -as consumers, suppliers, and decision makers- in contrast to their substantial roles as household energy managers. This is manifest in all sectors: access to energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Women’s decision-making roles in households in developing countries are usually restricted, reducing their say in issues of spending levels and choices, including with regards to renewable energy. The types of fuels used, the amount of energy purchased, the devices and technology chosen, as well as domestic infrastructure related to ventilation, lighting priorities, cooking,and energy based equipment purchased, are typically made by the male head of the household, but affect women’s daily lives in imediate and practical ways. There is a need for women-friendly technologies, which can free up women’s time, reduce their burden, and expand their economic, social and political opportunities. Improved cooking stoves can reach such aims.
UN-Habitat works to increase global energy access with special emphasis on women and girls and to spread renewable energy technologies to enhance energy supply in urban areas. We particularly support conceptual and analytical awareness and understanding on gender, poverty and urban energy so that authorities at all levels, civil society and private sector partners are aware and understand the linkages. We also promote participatory planning inclusive of the voices of poor women, girls, boys and men and support the participation of women and/or their organisations in trainings and capacity development activities.