Thursday, 09 May 2013

Mano River Union countries endorse action plan on energy for women’s empowerment

FREETOWN, 9 May 2013 – Ministers from countries of the Mano River Union (MRU) today adopted an action plan on energy and gender equality during a regional conference on women’s economic empowerment.

The three-day event was co-organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The MRU sub-region, with a population of approximately 40 million people, has an electricity access rate averaged at 22.6 per cent. In Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, traditional biomass is the main source of energy for cooking and heating. The dependency on inferior fuels, especially at the household level, widens the gender gap that exists between men and women as the burden associated with using these fuels falls more heavily on women. The implication of this is evident in the fact that women in the sub-region lag behind their male counterparts in most socio-economic indicators.

The Freetown conference was a follow-up to an energy forum held from 29 to 31 October 2012 in Accra, where new renewable energy and energy efficiency policies were adopted by  countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The policies envisage that by 2014, ECOWAS Member States would have developed and adopted their own "gender-sensitive" national renewable energy policies which will contribute to regional targets.

The conference was officially opened by the President of the host country, Ernest Bai Koroma, who in his opening statement said that gender equality and women’s empowerment was a priority pillar in the country’s agenda for prosperity. He added that energy access, particularly through renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, was a strategy the Government was employing to achieve its objectives. Stressing the importance of clean energy in women’s development, the President noted that “access to efficient energy empowers women, ensures productivity, enhances family health and improves quality of life”. His full speech is available here

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB) representative, Yero Baldeh, the conference was an example of the kind of solutions that the continent needs to tackle and address women's empowerment and access to economic opportunities. "The conference on women's access to energy is a milestone in the Mano River Union Basin," said Baldeh.

Partrick Kormawa, UNIDO Representative and Director, Regional Office in Nigeria, said: “There is an urgent need for governments and development agencies to develop gender-responsive policy frameworks in order to facilitate the transformation required to secure sustainable energy for all by 2030”.  

The Chief of UNIDO’s Competitiveness, Upgrading and Partnership Unit, Nilgun TAS, highlighted the Organzation’s policy and activities in mainstreaming gender issues into sustainable industrial development. She encouraged participants to focus their discussions beyond household energy issues by recognizing women as key economic actors and promote women’s economic empowerment through energy for productive uses so that women become active participants and leaders in the energy sector.

The action plan that was endorsed by participants at the Freetown event will be presented at the Vienna Energy Forum on 29 May 2013.
The conference was jointly organized by the Government of Sierra Leone, the MRU, UNIDO, the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

For more information please contact:

Alois Mhlanga
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