4 Reasons to Work with Women When it Comes to Energy Access

One billion people over the globe still live without electricity today, and almost three billion do not have access to clean cooking solutions. Exposure to biomass smoke kills millions of people each year. Most of them are women and children.


Anne-Sophie Garrigou


Main Image: ENERGIA/KOPERNIK — Maria

According to ENERGIA, gender equality and energy access are inextricably linked, and addressing them together can offer multiple development gains. Women are the main users of household energy and they can play a crucial role in moving forward towards energy access for all.

Here are four reasons how.

#1: More and more women around the world are engaged in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Women already own 30% to 37% of all SMEs (8 million to 10 million women-owned firms) in emerging markets and the number of female-owned enterprises is growing at a faster pace than that of male counterparts.

#2: Women are better positioned than men to become last-mile distribution points for energy access

Women are the primary users of energy technologies. Female sales person understand exactly what other women from their community need, and they understand better the benefits and features of the products they are promoting.

#3: Improving a woman’s income has more impact on reducing poverty and driving economic growth

Women reinvest 90% of their income in their families (men only 30% to 40%). So when a women earns more money, she will invest in her children’s education, healthcare and welfare. In the long term, this has a huge impact on poverty-reduction and economic growth.

#4: Women who are part of social networks make good businesswomen

In rural areas, most women entrepreneurs work on several projects: they might be teachers or nurses, and at first, they use the energy business as one of many revenue streams. Due to their wide network, and the trust people from the community already have for them, they become better sellers.

Copyrights: Solar Sister — Felicia Abiola-Ige (left) is a science teacher and raises three of her own children as well as three other children who depend on her. Pictured here (in Solar Sister t-shirt to right) is her daughter Opeyemi. Oyo Town, Oyo State, Nigeria.

Working with women entrepreneurs doesn’t come without challenges. When women start new energy businesses, their lack of confidence can make them lose quite a lot of sales. Education and training are therefore seen as a critical factor so that women change the perceptions they have of themselves. For Solar Sister, a central strategy is to work with “Sisterhoods”, or groups of entrepreneurs that meet regularly as a team. These are moments when entrepreneurs receive training from Solar Sister’s field staff and exchange tips and good practices with each other.

ENERGIA has been working towards developing women-led enterprises in the energy sector through its Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) programme since 2014. Together with its partners, ENERGIA has supported 4,153 women, delivering clean energy products and services to more than 2.9 million consumers, mostly in rural areas and in low-income communities. In a recent publication, the organisation analyses and presents models and strategies experienced during the implementation of its programme and describes successful approaches, together with failures.

To learn more about the issue, read ENERGIA new publication: Supporting last-mile women energy entrepreneurs: What works and what does not.