By Edwin Mumbere
The gender question in regard to energy issues in Uganda has for long been kept in the background. It is evident that women and children in rural areas are the most affected by energy needs.
Most of us have all witnessed the situation in rural households where women and children spend countless hours either collecting firewood or fetching water. Clearly energy, gender and poverty in Uganda are very strongly inter-related.
Solving rural women’s cooking energy needs, water needs through water pumping would free up women’s time and reduce drudgery allowing them to participate more in productive activities.
This would contribute to enabling livelihoods through increased output, improved working conditions and increased hours for production thus reducing poverty.
For rural women, clean energy would directly translate into health gains through clean cooking and improved health services by ensuring the efficient operation of medical equipment that would guarantee safer deliveries thus reduced maternal and infant mortality rate.
How then does the most affected person by major energy needs become excluded from the energy sector planning, policy formulation and interventions?
Have we ever asked ourselves that most probably consulting rural women on energy issues could lead to informed energy sector interventions and provide solutions to energy woes and eradicate poverty in Uganda?
Without question, for the Ugandan government to achieve sustainable energy for all(SE4ALL), the unique aspects that gender dynamics play in influencing energy access, energy efficiency and most importantly gender needs in relation to the preferred renewable energy sources have to be taken into account.
Over the years one of the single biggest concerns has been the limited evidence relating to the use of the gender approach in energy sector reform and regulation in Uganda. In Uganda’s energy sector the emphasis on women and girls is limited because energy interventions are usually implemented in a gender-neutral way.
This is based on the assumption that women and men benefit equally. In reality, energy interventions are gender-blind and fail to recognise that the needs of women and men are different thus missing issues that would be significant in implementing interventions that are of relevance to women.
A perfect example is that the question of using a gender approach has not been taken into account in the extension of energy sources in Uganda rural areas. The importance of extensively consulting women and getting their suggestions is never considered.
Questions are never asked to ensure that the energy sources distributed are affordable, accessible and efficient to the needs of women instead, the government concentrates in distributing unaffordable energy sources like hydro power electricity which isn’t affordable to rural women.
Therefore, Uganda’s energy sector should take into account the gender dynamics specifically the involvement of women.
The reason is that women’s productivity and wellness is greatly affected by challenges entwined with energy issues leading to high poverty levels. Understanding of the aspects of gender in relation to interventions of improving energy access can empower women, girls and improve affordable energy access thus reduce poverty.
Kasese Field Officer
Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)