Kenyan Ministry of Energy launches first national Gender Policy in the energy sector ever

 

In 2015 all United Nations Member States adopted 17 global goals which aim to end poverty, improve health and education, promote equality, conserve our planet’s resources and boost economic growth, and committed to meeting specific targets by 2030. As part of its commitment to achieving these objectives, Kenya’s Ministry of Energy launched its Gender Policy on November 1st. It is the first of its kind on the African continent. The Gender Policy aims to raise the level of gender awareness, change attitudes and inculcate an engendered work culture among staff in the energy sector, and sets an important milestone in the process towards ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. ENERGIA and long-time partner Practical Action Eastern Africa stood at the cradle of this unique policy.

First national Gender Policy ever

The Gender Policy is part of a broader process which identifies the key role of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) in the achievement of many other goals, such as SDG1 on poverty eradication, SGD5 on gender equality, and SDG13 on climate action. Access to energy plays the prime role in enabling social and economic development, it improves living and health conditions, reduces inequalities and violence, supports the creation of new job opportunities and promotes knowledge, information sharing and education. Indeed, energy is the main catalyst to achieving the Big Four Agenda (2018-2022) and The Vision 2030, Kenya’s development blue-print that aims to transform the country into a newly industrializing, middle income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment. However, energy access for all cannot be achieved without addressing disparities between men and women. Despite the efforts and success in increasing the level of access from 32% to 75% in just 5 years’ time, access to energy has been hindered by the affordability, reliability, capacity of energy services and clean cooking solutions, and by cultural norms which influence and shape the participation of women, youth and marginalized groups in the supply energy chain, particularly in remote areas. Moreover, much more needs to be done with regard to clean cooking technologies, whose adoption has not seen the same positive outcome in recent years. “It is evident that for the country to achieve universal access to clean energy and make tangible contributions to climate change mitigation, we must address the issue of energy access in totality, by ensuring we are on the front line in promoting adoption of clean cooking technologies for the citizens, specifically among the rural households”, explained Hon. Simon Kachapin, Chief administrative Secretary of the Ministry of Energy during the launch of the Gender Policy.

The new Gender Policy intends to address these development gaps and aims at applying a gender-lens to the energy sector, in the context of leaving no one behind. “This gender policy will provide a framework to deal with issues that confront us on a day to day basis while doing the planning and execution of energy development plans. We commit to give all the support in promoting gender mainstreaming at all levels”, added Hon. Simon Kachapin.

It also demonstrates the Ministry’s commitment to providing all individuals with equal opportunities of using energy services, without any gender-based discrimination. Ms. Phoebe Makungu, Gender Officer of the Ministry of Energy stated, “We believe that the implementation of this policy will promote gender sensitive energy institutions and enhance inclusivity and participation of women, men and all the marginalized groups in the realization of sustainable energy for all in Kenya. More so, it aims to ensure women do not just participate as beneficiaries, but play an active role as entrepreneurs in the entire energy value chain.”

How ENERGIA and Practical Action EA contributed to the development of the Gender Policy

ENERGIA and long-time partner Practical Action Eastern Africa (PA) stood at the cradle of this policy and are thrilled that the policy has now seen light. The Gender Audits of the energy policy in 2007, led by the Ministry of Energy, was one of the key milestones of this ambitious process. The audits offered a clear roadmap on how to reform the energy sector in a more gender-sensitive way. It also provided a model used by 9 ministries of energy from other countries in Africa and Asia (Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Senegal, Lesotho, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal).

Next followed a long trajectory of training and meetings, to build awareness, capacity and support within the governing body. In 2010, the development of a gender strategy and policy of the Kenya Power (national utility) has been used as a model by other electricity utilities in Liberia, Nepal, Ghana and Botswana. Under the ENERGIA Funded Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya (WEEK phase 1) project, PA provided technical support to mainstream gender during the development and dissemination of the SEforAll Action Agenda (AA) and the Investment Prospectus (IP), also supporting the MoE during the county SEforAll awareness meetings in 15 counties. The process went on during WEEK phase 2 project. While encouraging the Deputy Director-Gender to prepare a gender policy to support the ministry to mainstream gender in its agencies, through our Gender and Energy Research Programme ENERGIA provided relevant evidence to inform policy and practice. Our studies carried out in Kenya focused on impacts of electrification and the value of adopting gendered approaches in energy planning and delivery. This evidence gave a further boost to the finalisation of the Gender Policy, which has seen the light on Friday. Along with Practical Action, the contribution of our long terms partners such as the University of Nairobi, and Sustainable Community Development Services has also been crucial.

Photo: Sven Torfinn

Looking ahead

This Gender Policy provides a solid base for future implementations, offers routes to development, and encourages mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the energy sector. Moving ahead, it is important to enhance coordination with other relevant government and non-governmental actors, collaborate with County Governments and Non-state actors in the implementation of the Gender Policy, and build capacity among key stakeholders both at national and county level.

Looking ahead, “the challenge now is to implement these and to do this in a way that will deliver impacts on the ground so that no one is left behind and to ensure that it is translated into county energy plans and budgets,” said Sheila Oparaocha, International Coordinator at ENERGIA. “The implementation of the policy will require strong stepped-up funding, awareness among actors and key stakeholders, and political commitment” she further argued. Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Social Inclusion Advisor at Practical Action added that “If resources are mobilised and the policy is disseminated, adopted and implemented at the county level, county energy plans will be engendered, which will ensure inclusion in delivery of energy services including the energy poor, thereby meeting the needs of men, women and the marginalized.