|Susan Shabangu, the South African Deputy Minister of Minerals and Energy, gave a keynote address this morning, the 11th December. Her lecture was centred around the theme of the challenges women face when accessing basic energy resources, and what can be done to combat these problems.
Minister Shabangu claims that it is important to develop an energy sector that recognizes the significance of women as major participants in the energy cycle. The majority of energy consumers are women, as women prepare meals, wash clothes andcollect fuel. They have constant exposure to energy and are thus at constant risk. A large percentage of women suffer from respiratory illnesses as a result of dirty energy sources such as coal and wood burning. This negatively affects the economic contribution women can make to their country, as illness removes the capacity to produce and consume. As much time is spent collectiong fuel, women cannot turn their attentions to more productive economic activities.
Another concern is the ever-increasing price of the alternative fuel such as petrol. These fuel options are inaffordable to the average energy consumer, and traditional fuel burning continues.
Minister Shabangu is also concerned with the policy making process. She believes that the policy makers are gender insensitive, and women's needs are not intergrated. She also brought up the point that many energy policies are profit-oientated rather than gender sensitive.
Here Minister Shabangu used the example of a certain solar cooker that was being marketed. However, this cooker was too large to be accommodated in the average african home and did not take cooking methods into account. The women who would be using the product were not involved in the creation of this product.
In conclusion, Minister Shabangu posed a challnege to the private sector and to the female ministers: to change their policies to ensure women take their rightful place as prime energy users; to prevent exploitation and to ensure that future development encorporated gender-sensitive and fair legislation.