“Modern energy services are the thread that holds together the fabric of a modern society.” This is the view of Monica Maduekwe, a Renewable Energy Programme Officer at the Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Centre was established in 2010 with the support of UNIDO, in response to the ongoing energy crisis in the region. Power plants were not operating at full capacity because the high costs of fuel proved to be a significant obstacle for countries’ efforts to meet the energy needs of their population. In the midst of low access to modern energy services and energy security issues, as well as climate change concerns, ECREEE was created to coordinate a solution to these serious challenges.
As a specialized agency charged with promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in the region, one of the first things the Centre set out to accomplish was to develop the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy and the ECOWAS Energy Efficiency Policy. However, according to Maduekwe, previously many early energy-related policies were “gender-blind.”
Maduekwe joined ECREEE as an intern at the headquarters in Praia, Cape Verde, in 2011, having graduated from the University of Dundee with a MSc. in Energy Studies. In 2012, she became a technical project assistant and since 2014 she has coordinated the ECREEE Programme on Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access which provides women with increased access to modern, affordable and reliable energy services, energy security and environmental sustainability.
Ensuring access to these services involves overcoming a number of challenges, encompassing economic, social and political inequality. Women in the region broadly have much lower access to education, credit and assets – for example, in Senegal and Mali around 90% and 95% of land titles are held by men, respectively.