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ECOWAS Status Report

| 52 In the face of these challenges, ECOWAS adopted a Gender Strategy (2010-2020) designed to ensure that women and men act as equal stakeholders in the design, implementation, and benefits of development.61 The region has designated sustainable energy as a linchpin in this effort, acknowledging the extent to which access to modern energy services could be “an engine for industrial development and employment creation” throughout the region; moreover, deploying renewable energy technologies could put Member States on a “more gender-balanced path” to sustainable development.62 The EREP requires every Member State to develop a Gender Action Plan, and has mandated ECREEE to develop guidelines for mainstreaming gender into NREAPs.63 Throughout the ECOWAS region, many women depend on traditional biomass for household tasks and income-generating activities. However, despite their significant roles collecting and using energy resources, few women are engaged in the formal energy sector and their work is largely unaccounted for in national energy statistics.64 Women benefit from improved access to modern, sustainable energy services through improved health, decreased risks associated with collecting traditional biomass and cooking with open fires, savings in both time and money, and the potential for increased income generation.65 ECREEE has placed a particular focus on energy as means to build women’s capacities as entrepreneurs and successful income generators.66 As the sustainable energy sector expands, so will opportunities including roles as fuel suppliers, stove producers, promoters of efficient stove technology, and as entrepreneurs in catering businesses.67 To date, common barriers preventing women from entering the energy services sector include a lack of access to formal capital, limited market information or technical experience, and systemic underrepresentation in public institutions and policymaking.68 Several major initiatives throughout the region aim to expand access to these opportunities. The ECOWAS Programme on Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access, which emerged out of a training workshop on gender and sustainable energy in June 2012, works to build capacity for gender mainstreaming in energy policies, promote gender-sensitive policies, and implement gender-responsive investment and business strategies.xviii,69 WACCA, created in October 2013, works to promote modern, efficient production of biomass and modern bioenergy, expand regional dialogue and peer-to-peer learning, support bioenergy policy planning and implementation, and facilitate creation of a thriving bioenergy sector that contributes to regional development.70 By 2020, the programme aims to create at least 10 million additional users of LPG and modern biofuels and 15 million additional households using improved cook stoves and/or sustainable biomass as their primary fuel. By 2030, they hope to raise these figures to 25 million and 45 million respectively.71 Gender-focused initiatives are also being implemented on the national and local levels, often providing case studies for potential replication throughout the region. In Burkina Faso, local beer breweries depend on the time-intensive labour of women and account for an estimated 20% of national firewood consumption.72 The Dolo Project trains cook stove artisans and manufacturers on designs to improve efficiency, trains brewers on cook stove maintenance and operations, and works to enforce quality and technical standards for cook stoves. The project model focuses on raising awareness of opportunities for energy efficiency and attendant benefits among communities of women brewers, generate demand for improved cook stoves, and establish links between the women brewers and supply chains.73 Other energy intensive food processing activities, including bakeries, have enormous potential for energy efficiency improvements; involving women in the design and implementation of activities to improve efficiency could have enormous benefits for their ability to build and expand businesses. In Sierra Leone, women trained to install and maintain solar-powered home systems at the Barefoot College of India returned home to assemble solar units at the Barefoot College in Konta Line Village, which opened in August 2011.These women now train others in solar installation and maintenance, illustrating the potential for entrepreneurship and peer-to-peer learning.74 As the region continues to move toward universal energy access, initiatives like these—along with ECREEE’S efforts to mainstream gender priorities and female representation in decision-making and policy implementation—will expand the benefits of sustainable energy deployment and create positive ripple effects in economic and social development. xviii. “Gender mainstreaming” refers to incorporating the needs, priorities, and capacities of both women and men into policy design and implementation, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that intervention impacts do not disproportionately benefit one group over the other.

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