By Sharon Atieno

Though the sustainable development goal seven calls for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, women are still left behind.

This is largely due to unequal gender norms and traditional practices which limit women’s participation in energy planning, hinder their opportunities to benefit from energy interventions and voice their needs as well as lack of sex-disaggregated data and ineffective gender-responsive policies.

In order to move the agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment forward across the continent, the African Development Bank, is championing the production of sex-disaggregated data to adequately address gaps, so that governments can develop responses that leave none behind.

These sentiments were shared by Nnenna Nwabufo, African Development Bank Director General for East Africa during a webinar for the National Dissemination of Kenya’s Gender and Energy Brief.

“While Kenya shows great advancements in integrating gender into energy policies and programs, there is an urgent need for sex-disaggregated data in impact assessments, monitoring, evaluation and learning systems,” she said.

Nwabufo added that a thorough overview of the affordability and sustainability of energy connections disaggregated by gender will also help in designing policies on how to support all equitably and most importantly, cover any identified gap, thus, strengthening gender inclusion in the energy sector.

She also noted that lack of financing for women owned businesses is a major challenge because of risk perception-often linked to bias due to historical or cultural issues.

“It is a missed opportunity knowing that bringing more women in the energy industry brings new capacities. Women bring different leadership skills and behaviours, and it no longer needs to be demonstrated that diversity and more balanced teams make better decisions,” Nwabufo said.

Kenya’s country brief presented by Phoebe Makungu, Deputy Director Gender and Development- Kenya shows that majority of households still use wood fuel at 55.1%, with major users being in rural areas at 84%. The main source of energy for lighting is electricity at 50.4%. Moreover, electricity poverty is most in female headed households which constitute 32%.

She noted that Kenya has no system to track budget allocations for gender mainstreaming activities hence, it is difficult to track and report related expenditures.

Makungu added that monitoring and evaluation systems lack gendered dimensions and approaches, noting that lack of gender-specific targets reduces the opportunity and need to include gender issues in monitoring and evaluation.

According to Makungu, though the country has strong political commitment and policies in place to mainstream gender in energy sector, strong database is needed to track progress made in engendering energy policies, projects and programs.

Kenya’s Gender and Energy Brief has been developed with help from the African Development Bank, ENERGIA and the Climate Investment Funds. Similar briefs were launched in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The briefs aim at providing information to develop more effective initiatives that empower women in the energy sector and strengthen the incorporation of gender in policies and programmes across the four countries.