International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women and to recognize the challenges that women continue to face around the world. In Uganda, where more than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas, the lack of access to energy is a major impediment to women’s economic and social empowerment.
Energy poverty in Uganda disproportionately affects women, who often spend hours each day collecting firewood, cooking on open fires, and using kerosene lamps for lighting. This not only puts their health at risk due to exposure to smoke and other pollutants, but it also limits their ability to participate in education, earn a living, and engage in other productive activities.
However, there are efforts underway to improve access to energy in Uganda, particularly through the use of renewable energy sources such as solar power. Distributed solar energy is particularly well-suited to rural areas because it is easy to install, low-maintenance, and does not require a connection to the national power grid. In Uganda, New Energy Nexus supports last mile clean energy entrepreneurs to deliver low cost and high quality entry-level clean energy technologies.
The majority of entrepreneurs we support at New Energy Nexus Uganda are women and 70% of the jobs created by our entrepreneurs are taken by women. Ultimately, the majority of these women have testified that their quality of live has improved due to access and use of these high-quality energy products in their households,, and those involved in Village Savings and Loan Schemes (VSLS) have increased their financial savings due to lower energy costs.
New Energy Nexus also teaches women entrepreneurs recordkeeping skills as part of its curriculum. We created the ENVision platform, an open-source web-based application to track inventory, sales, and orders in 2G and Edge networks for low-literate sales agents and micro-entrepreneurs. This helps women entrepreneurs to manage their sales and performance more effectively, and allows us to receive real-time product updates to help monitor and measure success. This also ensures that entrepreneurs don’t lose time and information on their businesses through cloud-based storage.
Efforts to improve access to energy in Uganda are still in their early stages, but the progress that has been made is encouraging. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us recognize the important role that access to energy plays in women’s empowerment and support the organizations and initiatives that are working to improve energy access in Uganda and the Global South. By doing so, we can help to create a more just, equitable and inclusive world for women and girls everywhere which is possible if we work with diverse clean energy entrepreneurs with a focus on women.