Clean Energy Investments

Pivotal agenda towards Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment

March 21, 2024


Clean energy investment is crucial to achieving gender equality and women's economic empowerment. In countries like Ethiopia, especially in rural communities where modern energy is rarely available, the primary source of energy is highly dependent on biomass, such as firewood, charcoal, crop residues, and animal dung. Unfortunately, women and girls are disproportionately affected by this, as they are solely responsible for finding energy solutions at the household level. Collecting firewood often requires women and girls to travel long distances, taking up valuable time that could be spent on other productive or economic activities. It also puts them at risk of gender-based violence, such as abduction and rape, and prolonged exposure to smoke also exposes them to indoor air pollution which has significant health impacts. 

These gender inequalities in energy access are significant impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Access to energy is a fundamental prerequisite for health, education, and economic well-being. However, the disproportionate burden on women in collecting and using biomass ultimately limits their participation in and contribution to the development of their families, communities, and nations.


UNDP is committed to tackling these challenges in accessing energy, with our global strategic goal seeking to help deliver clean energy to an additional 500 million people by 2025 in tandem with our commitments to advance gender equality. In Ethiopia, UNDP has been supporting interventions that narrow the gender gap in terms of access to modern and sustainable energy such as enhancing access to renewable, affordable, and sustainable rural energy technology, mainstreaming gender in the Government of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilience Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy and National Determined Contributions (NDCs). 

With this great ambition and to contribute to the gender equality strategy, UNDP is implementing a flagship Powering Equality programme to pilot innovative approaches in Ethiopia, as well as Eswatini, Madagascar, and Malawi.

The programme seeks to help boost women’s economic empowerment, enhance gender-responsive energy governance, and support energy policy frameworks that accelerate gender equality. The programme is supported by the Government of Luxembourg and the Republic of Korea through UNDP’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Funding Window.


As part of this flagship programme, a national policy forum on gender and energy was organized on 21 March 2024 to strengthen women-led organizations' awareness and capacity on energy policy frameworks that accelerate gender equality, enhance cross-sector policy cooperation on gender and energy, and strengthen the engagement of women’s machinery in the energy policy formulation processes. 

The platform created an opportunity for more than 32 experts drawn from the Ministry of Water and Energy (MoWE ), Ministry of Women and Social Affairs (MoWSA), women's national networks, women-led CSOs and groups to learn and reflect on the gender & energy nexus and relevant policy frameworks, draw lessons from best practices of mainstreaming gender in energy policies and programmes.

Edom Berehanu/UNDP

Yemisrach Mekonnen, Executive Board Member of the Ethiopian Women in Energy Association and one of the presenters in the forum shares her in-depth experience in the area and what needs to be done to make the sector more conducive and attractive for women. “There are good groundworks in the energy sector done so far in Ethiopia. Policies related to the sector are in place, but the challenge is the implementation and an inadequate number of women leaders and mentors in the sector. For this to be practical, it requires a lot of support, corroboration, learning, and an open and inviting environment. We also need to know and explore ways to take advantage of the policies.” 


Yemisrach further reflects that “to make this happen, women in the sector need to be supported, embraced, and empowered to be able to make a difference and be beneficiaries. If we want to see tangible progress in the sector, women need to be part of the catalyst and decision maker. Making women upfront help the household, the community, the nation and beyond as women have a lot to offer.”  


The forum also looked into the preliminary findings of the gender and energy actors mapping. which will have an important role in the full implementation of existing and upcoming policies and other related initiatives. While there are several opportunities available for women in the energy sector, there are undeniable challenges that require stakeholders’ attention and solutions. To mention a few, limited capacity to influence policies and strategies in the energy sector, and the sector is predominantly male-dominated. In addition, access to finance and incentives for women-led/owned enterprises within the energy sector, the rising prices of production inputs for energy products, product distribution and marketing constraints, and the lack of long-term engagements in mentoring and coaching, and many initiatives are project-oriented and focus on specific areas, often lacking sustainability in the long run


The experts also conducted an in-depth discussion on the roadmap for CSOs’ engagement and the establishment of a national policy forum, as well as the set up of a gender and energy working group that will be instrumental in promoting gender equality in the energy sector. To address some of the aforementioned challenges and guide the sector with a clear roadmap, it is agreed to develop a gender & energy policy advocacy strategy and policy brief and share with stakeholders for review and endorsement that will be conducted in the coming months.