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Himalaya micro-hydro scheme: Empowering women through sustainable energy

June 3rd, 2014 by Posted in Agriculture, Climate change, English, Women's rights, Zimbabwe
 Rural Women and Oxfam in solidarity

The rehabilitated Simbengadzibve irrigation scheme with bean crops. Photo: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

While the lack of modern sustainable energy services in many parts of Africa and the developing world affect everyone, they impact men and women differently. Women and girls are traditionally responsible for the growing of food, collecting of water, family care giving, cooking, cleaning and fuel gathering. Women are also the main users of household energy in developing countries and are also the most affected by the adverse effects of the lack of availability of modern sustainable energy services.

Despite this, women are also credited with having great knowledge that is critical to solving their energy problems. Therefore, their involvement in the uptake and implementation of renewable energy technologies is of paramount importance. In the Himalaya community of ward 22 Mutare District in Zimbabwe, Practical Action and Oxfam with funding from the European Union are aiding the community in the construction of an 80kW micro hydro scheme which will provide sustainable energy for homes, businesses, schools and agriculture. To ensure that women are adequately involved in project decision making, implementation as well as obtaining adequate benefits from the initiative gender mainstreaming is being conducted.

Gender mainstreaming incorporates the identification of the unique energy needs of both men and women to ensure that everyone is catered for. This mainstreaming is targeted at improving the welfare, productivity and empowerment of both men and women and is documented in a gender action plan. In the preparation of this plan it was noted that men and women’s roles in community developments differ and so it was agreed that in the development of the Himalaya micro hydro scheme women would be responsible for collecting and ferrying locally available material such as sand, stones, cement to the construction site while men would carry out the construction work, dig trenches, and carry and align steel pipes. It was also agreed that women would be adequately represented in trainings and project committees so as to empower them and ensure that their views are taken into account. The micro hydro development in the community will also bring different opportunities such as microenterprises which will benefit men and women differently. It is expected that women will be empowered and have their welfare improved through the availability of sustainable energy services, thus enhance women’s economic opportunities through providing more options for livelihoods and incomes.

Lighting for example is important for women to work more productively and healthily in the evening in their home and home industries.

 Mrs Chakanyuka (in front) and fellow women ferry river sand to the canal construction site

Mrs Chakanyuka (in front) and fellow women ferry river sand to the canal construction site

One community member Mrs Chakanyuka, a 35 year old woman who is involved in farming, buying and selling, and knitting says “A light bulb will make a huge difference in my kitchen! The kitchen is where we spend most of our time as women and as a family after a long day’s work so it would be great having lights in there.” She goes on to say that “Our kids will study better in the electric light and we will be able to sew clothes and church garments for our families and for sale.” She adds that “We hope that when electricity is introduced in our community we will be able to process and store our agricultural produce and women can get involved in sewing and chicken rearing projects which will improve our household incomes and our children will not be going to school barefoot anymore.”

 The Agribusiness centre with energy kiosk under contruction. Photo: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

The Agribusiness centre with energy kiosk under contruction. Photo: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

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