Promoting Entrepreneurship and Humanitarian Energy Access at the UN Commission on the Status of Women
Every year, the Alliance joins partners to participate in Commission on the Status of Women, the annual UN conference dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The event brings together representatives from governments, UN agencies, the private sector, and civil society from all over the world to discuss the path forward to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and girls.
The Alliance has engaged at CSW since our launch in order to ensure that the importance of clean cooking solutions is highlighted among the thousands of gender advocates who participate each year. This year the Alliance partnered with leading influential gender and humanitarian agencies to host two official side events.
Together with ENERGIA and UN Women, the Alliance hosted an event on women’s energy entrepreneurship on Monday, March 14. At this event, panelists from the Alliance, Solar Sister, UN Women, and the International Center on the Research of Women (ICRW) discussed women’s energy entrepreneurship and showcased how gender-informed business models are scaling access to energy, as well as increasing gender equality and empowerment. Participants heard from Seemin Qayum of UN Women about UN Women’s new women’s energy and entrepreneurship program and why the leading UN agency responsible for gender equality is now focusing on energy access. They heard from Neha Misra of Solar Sister about how they are creating clean energy advocates through their women’s entrepreneurship model and the importance of creating community change agents through their empowerment approach. And, Allie Glinski from ICRW and Rachel Mahmud from the Alliance discussed two new Alliance programs focused on measuring social impacts in the cooking sector and empowering adolescent girls.
On Thursday, March 17, the Alliance also co-hosted an event with the International Lifeline Fund, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the World Food Programme, highlighting the direct linkages that women’s protection and sustainable development have with safe access to fuel and energy in humanitarian settings. Moderated by Alliance CEO Radha Muthiah, the panelists discussed the needs and challenges of access to fuel and energy in humanitarian settings, the disproportionate impact it has on women and girls, and how energy programs can increase the safety and wellbeing of displaced women and girls. Baroness Sandip Verma, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the UK Department for International Development, emphasized that access to energy products and services is essential for basic human protection and dignity, and that women and girls must be at the center of these efforts.
Corinne Hart, the Alliance’s Director of Gender and Humanitarian Programs, outlined the Alliance’s approach to addressing the cooking energy needs of displaced women and girls — coordinating stakeholders working on energy in humanitarian settings through the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Working Group, providing technical support, building the evidence base, and mobilizing resources. She shared the recent example of the Nepal earthquakes to highlight how important quick, responsive coordination is for effectively meeting energy access needs in a crisis. Assessments showed that more than 75,000 households’ ability to cook was impacted and many lost power and lighting technologies. As a result of coordinating efforts among aid agencies, NGOs, technology manufacturers, and the government, more than 86,000 energy products have been distributed through SAFE Working Group partners.
By sharing this work and that of the Alliance’s partners, CSW provided a critical opportunity to engage development actors working on gender equality and showcase how incorporating access to energy into their organizations’ goals and missions can enable and strengthen impact for women and girls, especially reducing time poverty, unpaid work and drudgery, exposure to gender-based violence, and increase economic empowerment opportunities.