Three billion people, or 40% of the world population, rely on traditional use of biomass for cooking.
The rural poor, mostly women, largely only have access to fuels that are inefficient in converting to energy. Lack of access to cooking fuel forces women and children to spend many hours gathering fuel - up to 5 hours per day- or spend significant household income purchasing fuel. Women provide 91% of households’ total efforts in collecting fuel and water, and women have an average working day of 11-14 hours, compared to 10 hours on average for men. A reduction in time spent collecting fuel and cooking enables women to spend more time with their children, tend to other responsibilities, enhance existing economic opportunities, pursue income-generating or educational opportunities and leisure activities and rest – all of which contribute to poverty alleviation.
Women Are Crucial to Clean Cooking Solutions
Women play a crucial role in the widespread adoption and use of clean household cooking solutions because of their central responsibility for managing household energy and cooking. As consumers and users of cookstoves, women are not just victims but a critical component of the sector’s ability to scale. Women must be fully integrated into the process of designing products and solutions because without their opinions and input, products will not meet their needs and will not be used.
Alliance Gender Strategy Overview
The Alliance has a strategy to increase the role of women and address gender issues to scale adoption. Gender-informed practices help enterprises understand the impact of gender dynamics on their business, and help cooking sector players leverage opportunities to empower women and promote gender equality. The major challenges to scaling women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship include: the lack of capacity of enterprises to address gender; financing for gender components in projects; evidence of gender impacts in the sector; and the need to influence policies through awareness-raising and advocacy. The Alliance is addressing these challenges through research, training, development of tools, grant opportunities, national awareness campaigns, and high-level engagement with the energy sector and gender experts.
The strategic pillars of the Alliance’s gender strategy are:
- Build the evidence and share data: The Alliance commissions research on the gender and social impacts of adoption from clean cooking solutions, the impact women can have on scaling adoption, and the most effective approaches for women’s empowerment and adoption. We are currently developing monitoring & evaluation methodologies and tools for measuring socio-economic impacts. Our latest research demonstrates that women have the potential to increase sales and adoption when provided with agency-based training, and that improved cookstove user households report sending their children to school more often.
- Build capacity of enterprises: The Alliance is working to ensure that cookstove and fuel enterprises utilize gender-informed business models in order to ensure effectiveness and sustainability, as well as strengthen and scale gender and empowerment impacts. Resources are needed to develop effective business models that empower women and utilize women’s entrepreneurship in the household energy sector, and advance the sector through the exchange of lessons learned from successful and failed innovations.
- Increase access to finance: Access to finance is critical to all entrepreneurs, including women. The Alliance-funded Women’s Empowerment Fund (WEF) allows our partners to design and scale approaches that empower women, supporting the implementation of best practices for empowering women in the clean cooking value chain, as outlined in the Alliance’s Resource Guide. To ensure that grantees are integrating best practices for working with women and addressing gender issues, women-led energy SMEs will undergo gender due diligence to identify gaps and the Alliance will make recommendations on how to address them. SMEs can then apply for funding to implement the recommendations. This activity will support and scale the number of women energy entrepreneurs working at the SME level versus only targeting women energy entrepreneurs at the micro-level. The Capacity Building Facility connects enterprises with investors interested in gender impact and raises the awareness of investors about gender-informed business practices.
- Raise awareness: The Alliance is raising awareness on the harmful effects of inefficient stoves and fuels and the benefits of clean cooking technologies, through national awareness campaigns and energy access education and awareness programs for youth impacted by traditional cooking practices. The Alliance is working to ensure that national awareness campaigns adequately address the barriers and opportunities for women and girls, and that energy access is integrated into school curriculum and extracurricular programs.
- Set and influence policies: Clean cooking solutions should be at the center of all policy efforts to achieve sustainable development. The Alliance advocates for the increased prioritization by leading gender organizations of cooking energy as a global issue for women and girls, as well as enhanced attention and funding for women’s economic empowerment activities within the energy sector globally.