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Making energy work for us as women
by Robyn L
Africa / US Energy Ministerial Conference & Women in Energy

Durban, South Africa •• Dec. 12, 2000 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• In a previous report (Some interesting personalities), I have commented on the dymanic Yvette Stevens, the African Coordinator for the United nations. In her address on 11 December [Linkages Between Energy and Development Strategies to Empower Women], she tackled the issue of the linkage between energy and the development of rural women.

She began by stating that very litle progress in this regard had been made; rural women were still mothers, housekeepers and food preparers as well as often being in charge of cultivation and agriculture. Due to the rural woman's diverse portfolio, there are very strong links between women and energy. Fuel collection expends human energy and the burning of fuel again expends energy. Through this link, women become exposed to multiple hazards such as respiratory diseases resulting from fossil fuel burning and the physical risk of assault which women are exposed to when walking long distances to collect fuel. Another, more alarming result of constant exposure to fossil fuel fumes is evident when one looks at the rate of miscarriages occuring in pregnant women exposed to fumes.

Ms Stevens then stated that although many conferences had been held, and many descisions made concerning this issue there had been no change in the situation of these rural women. Promises were being forgotten and no action was being taken. There was a disconnection between what was being said and what was being done.

Added to this, Ms Stevens claimed that well-meaning benefit schemes to create economic success were not enough on their own to alleviate poverty. Energy solutions must be diverse, and it is important that the energy sector works together with other divisions to create sustainable solutions concerning the development of rural women.

However, problems expressed without providing alternatives is not beneficial and Ms Stevens proceeded to mention a few problems and then offer solutions:

Inefficient and environmentally destructive cooking methods; the provision of modern fuel would reduce the strain on the environment;
Disconnection between the rural dwellers and the policy makers; rural statistics should be collected to assist policy makers when deciding on legislation.

Ms Stevens concluded that capacity building was a neccessity, and funds must be made available for rural development. If these rural communities were developed, their population would become economically secure and thus by becoming part of the consumer cycle, would pay for themselves in the long run. A perspective is needed when looking at these issues. "Energy is the women's fuel - make it work for us."

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