On 9 February 2021, the campaigning group Deliver for Good organised a roundtable discussion in Senegal with key stakeholders including the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy on the theme of "energy resources and sustainable development opportunities for women and girls".
Initiated by global advocacy organisation Women Deliver, Deliver For Good applies a gender perspective to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focuses particularly on investing in health, education and access to resources (with a focus on renewable energy) to close the gap in opportunities for women and girls. With a campaign implemented in Senegal by Energy 4 Impact in tandem with local women’s rights NGO Siggil Jigeen, Deliver for Good is advocating for the partial reinvestment of future oil and gas wealth into the provision of greater educational and health opportunities for women and girls. The campaign also calls upon the government to develop renewable energy markets, as well as fostering the entrepreneurial activities enabled by such energy access, in order to further the economic empowerment of women.
In Senegal, women are active at all levels of economic and social life, but their productivity is generally lower than men because their access to energy, resources and production inputs is still limited. Improving access to sustainable energy in rural areas enables the wider use of equipment such as irrigation systems and machinery to process and preserve food - and this is often a gamechanger for the female workers that dominate these sectors. Despite the many challenges women face through lack of finance, equipment and training, energy access enables them to engage in business activities that help strengthen local economies.
Chaired by the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, other participants included officials from government ministries, members of parliament, local elected officials, NGOs, journalists, activists, leaders from the private sector, and representatives from the Senegalese Business Council for Renewable Energy.
The roundtable provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the research results of the Access to Resources Thematic Group (GTAR), whilst also broaching the links between gender and renewable energy, particularly the question of how allocating oil and gas revenues could allow greater investment in the decentralised energy solutions that more easily reach isolated communities. Deliver For Good made the case that such an allocation of public funds would help achieve a crucial impact across a number of key areas: health (better storage of vaccine drugs, access to healthcare even in the evening); education (accelerating digital inclusion in rural areas, providing access to information and the possibility of studying at night); gender-based violence or insecurity (providing night lighting); improving economic and living conditions through access to clean technologies (solar equipment allows women and young people to carry out income-generating activities such as market gardening, trade, production and processing, as well as considerably reducing arduous labour).
By partnering with the Deliver for Good campaign in Senegal, Energy 4 Impact supports entrepreneurs lacking access to the grid or extensive knowledge of the potential of renewable energy. Energy 4 Impact’s country specialist in Senegal Abdoul Dosso explains that access to energy is a hugely important means to provide economic empowerment to women and girls in ‘last mile’ communities, so it is a matter of urgency to increase investment in alternative decentralised solutions.
Energy 4 Impact supports more than 200 rural businesses in Senegal – comprising around 11,000 women farmers engaged in market gardening (vegetable production), trade (sale of juice, ice cream, etc) and crop processing – to increase their activity through the use of solar-powered equipment. The farmers are also provided with tailor-made business, marketing and technical advice, as well as support accessing finance.
Some of these businesses achieve a significant turnover which enables female entrepreneurs to repay outstanding debt on solar equipment whilst also saving or diversifying their sources of income. Despite the movement restrictions forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 saw a 150% increase in the recorded income of entrepreneurs. Their success has a ripple effect on local economies, creating new jobs and making new products and services available to remote communities.
Fatou Thioune, a farmer in Mboro, is one of them. She cultivates crops such as onions, potatoes and carrots on her plot and has been able to diversify production and increase turnover thanks to the acquisition of a solar pump. In Tambacounda, entrepreneur Fanta has been provided with a solar refrigerator which has enabled her to achieve a monthly turnover that often exceeds the forecasts in the business plan. Through this additional income, she is able to channel funds to a savings account as well as contribute to daily family expenditure.
Recognising the central role that women and girls play in rural development, Senegalese minister Sophie Gladima argues that it is necessary "to involve them in all decisions so that their specific needs are taken into account". She also underlined “the common commitment of all actors to effectively address gender within the energy sector” and reiterated the government’s intention to incorporate gender-related development issues into government strategies to promote equality and social justice.