Durban, South Africa Dec. 13, 2000 SolarQuest® iNet News Service
Women in Energy Ministerial Meeting
11-12 December 2000
Durban South Africa
Text of speech by Susan Shabangu, Deputy Minister of Minerals and Energy, South Africa
Honourable Excellencies, Ministers of Energy, Representatives of the US Department of Energy, Members of the Diplomatic Call, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentleman. May I also give a special word of welcome to Minister Syda Bumba, who Together with our Minister at Tucson last year proposed the hosting of this conference.
It is indeed an honour for me to stand in front of you in this historic day. The day in which, I strongly believe, signify the change in the African Energy sector. A change that will Asher in a new attitude in the management of the energy sector and energy sector policymaking in our respective countries. These two days, I strongly believe, will further consolidate other efforts that have been made to solidify and put the women development issues in the general development agenda. It is worth mentioning and applauding here the efforts of groups such as ENERGIA, Women Energy Group, the latter whose activities (I am told) have since ceased. Which have at different levels looked at ways of uniting the energy voice of women in the African continent.
As Energy Ministers, it is important for us to develop an energy sector that is gender sensitive. An energy sector that appreciates the contributions and efforts of all members of the community, irrespective of gender. The reality of the energy situation in countries such as ourselves, most of which are developing, is that the majority of energy users and consumers are WOMEN. Women in their daily activities are faced with the need to use energy, be it in the house preparing meals, warming water to wash kids or even having to collect fuelwood. This constant exposure to energy by Women is also exposing them to different and serious risks.
Women suffer from serious respiratory and associated health ailments, which are directly linked to their constant expose to unhealthy, unreliable and often dirty energy resources. The burning of fuelwood and in countries such as South Africa the burning of Coal causes pollution and exposes women to smoke, causing lung problems.
Ladies and Gentlemen, honoured guests, Energy resources gathering is negatively affecting the women’s economic productive time. In most cases long time is spend collecting fuelwood, at far distances and during the daytime, the time at which they could be doing other productive economic activities. It has been estimated that on average about eight hours a day is spent by women collecting fuelwood. It is incumbent on us to change this situation; we need to ensure that this time is spent productively on other productive socio-economic activities. The risks of being attacked in the bushes are also ever present.
The commercialisation of fuelwood and other energy resources has also spelt new challenges for the Women, most of who are heads of the household and poverty stricken families. The rising international crude prices, which have let to increases in the prices of Illuminating Paraffin and LPG, which are used at household level is also a cause for concern. These energy resources are increasingly becoming unaffordable for millions of the poverty stricken majority and Women energy users in particular.
The Energy policymaking process in most countries is still done and drafted exclusively by male policy makers. This has led to women issues not being integrated in energy policy making or put on the energy sector development agenda, and resulting in energy policies, energy projects and programs that are not gender sensitive. This male dominance is also very much experienced in the design and development of energy technologies, whilst women are the main end users of energy technologies, the design and manufacture of these technologies does not take the issues of women into consideration. It is thus very much imperative that women are not only thought of as energy end users, but that their technological wishes and aspirations need be considered at all levels of energy resources development and technology provision and manufacture. Honourable excellencies, I have just returned from a Solar Cooker Conference, looking at some of these technologies one is left with a strong feeling to recommend Women involvement in technology development. These cookers are developed with little or no considerations of the realities mothers face in their daily use of these technologies, some of these are very huge and consume a lot of space in the households where Women have to ensure a sleeping room for everyone.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is incumbent on us to change energy sector policies and practises. We as Women Energy Ministers we will be vigilant and ensure an energy sector that is representative. We cannot be seen to perpetuate the status quo, which is extremely insensitive to the needs of Women in the energy sector. The Energy Policies of this century, which is described as an Africa century, will as a matter of policy and principle, would include women energy development issues.
In conclusion, I want to challenge all Minister Present here, members of the NOG community and representatives of the private sector to develop a representative energy sector. The Energy sector policies, that include the voices and aspirations of all community members and particularly the women members of the community. We need to ensure the capacity building for women in energy, ensure that women take their right full places in energy sector development, need to guard against the expploitation of women , ensure that energy technologies are gender friendly and gender sensitive, further ensure that future energy development is women friendly.
MAY I TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY HONOURABLE MINISTERS AND DISTINGUISHED GUEST, TO THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN FOR YOUR ATTENTION AND ATTENDANCE OF THIS IMPORTANT CONFERENCE, I THANK YOU