- Giving women access to energy is key to righting gender inequality in South Africa.
- Women are responsible for most household tasks which are labour intensive, but usually go unpaid: cooking, child care, shopping, cleaning, heating the home and water, collecting and buying fuel such as wood, charcoal or manure for burning, and so on.
- Women also make up the bulk of the country’s poor, and constitute a disproportionate section of the informal labour market. A pro-poor electricity grid is economically, socially and environmentally ethical, beneficial, durable and resilient in the face of ongoing global change.
If women have access to affordable, reliable energy which can be provided locally, drawn from renewable sources more efficiently than from the electricity grid:
- It will reduce the burden of unpaid, labour-intensive domestic chores, by allowing them to use electricity as a substitute for labour, for instance, in the form of a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner.
- It will free up their time to spend on other things like helping with their children’s education, or running a small business.
An example of how much change energy access can bring, comes from a United Nations women’s project in West Africa which found that by introducing locally generated energy, women’s labour hours were reduced by two to four hours a day. The positive spinoffs included increased income, education and adult literacy rates.
How to get affordable energy access to women:
- Their homes must be linked to the grid.
- Electricity must be reasonably priced.
- Or they must have some form of renewable energy technology installed, such as a solar water heater.
- Righting gender inequality in the context of energy access calls for tailored and appropriate responses from policy makers through all tiers of government, as well as from the private sector, civil society, and the public.
- Furthermore, including the poor and women in energy planning processes allows them to be agents of their own lives, as opposed to the current model where electricity pricing decisions and grid management are made in spaces generally still inaccessible to them.
Look out for next week’s fact file #5: Electricity Demand: How much do we really need?