TOPIC : Rural women
Rural women and the journey towards achieving SDG7
Rural women play a critical role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) – access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.
From their entrepreneurial approach of growing solar businesses or growing produce for local sale, access to electricity and clean cooking fuels changes lives for women in rural areas. As community leaders, women are also best equipped to advocate for the energy needs of their neighbours.
Women around the world make substantial contributions to agriculture production, up to 60% in some regions. They shoulder the burden of unpaid care and domestic work and are often responsible for the food security of their families. Their leadership is key to manage community resources and are well-equipped to build community resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Women in rural communities are on the front lines of the sustainable energy transition. Access to reliable electricity dramatically improves their lives, helping alleviate many time and labor burdens.
For example, solar water pumps cut down time required to collect water, clean cookstoves eliminate the need to cook over harmful fuels for hours at a time and simple lanterns provide an element of safety or opportunity to extend the day past sundown.
Electricity access also allows rural women to be economically productive, leading to higher incomes or formal employment opportunities. Improved energy infrastructure can also support community resources such as schools for young girls, access to sanitation or healthcare clinics.
Now, as the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, women are increasingly vulnerable due to reductions in access to healthcare and maternal health services. As we look at the cold chain that will likely be necessary for a COVID vaccine, energy will be essential to ensuring women and girls in all rural communities have access to COVID solutions and longterm care.
As countries seek to “Recover Better” from the crisis, it is absolutely critical to put women’s knowledge and experiences at the heart of our recovery. Rural women leaders and social groups must be empowered to make decisions around household and community energy solutions. In the wake of this health crisis, rural women must also be included in policies that seek to build resilience to future health, ecological, and economic shocks.
As noted in Sustainable Energy for All’s Energizing Finance research series, women face additional barriers accessing finance for energy solutions and outline various financing approaches, such as targeted credit solutions or loan guarantees, that can improve women’s access to energy.
Ultimately, we need more women, from rural and urban areas, to be central to the design process of electricity systems, pricing and sales in the energy sector. We cannot meet SDG7 without women’s full contribution, participation and leadership.
CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All Co-Chair, UN-Energy