Women are generally excluded from discussions about energy plans and policies because of gender norms around appropriate roles for women and men, gender biases in education, and gender inequalities in employment status. Yet burning wood or other biomass fuels (such as fuelwood and animal dung) is a primary source of energy in many countries, and fetching and using these fuels is commonly viewed as women's work. These three reports, focusing on Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, are drawn from a much larger set of regional and country studies conducted by The International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA) in preparation for discussions on access to energy at the 14th and 15th sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). The reports argue that it is time for national energy and development policies to acknowledge the linkages between energy, gender, and poverty. In Botswana women have been excluded from policy formulation processes and so have been unable to articulate their energy needs. As a result, women in rural households are not benefitting from initiatives focused on electrification because electricity is expensive and their primary fuel needs are for cooking. In Lesotho, although government policies exist to support sustainable energy development and to address women's low status, these policies are not linked together. In Swaziland, because of the difficulties women face in owning land and obtaining credit to invest in small scale renewable energy generation, they are unable to generate their own energy through such sustainable means. Recommendations include: recognise that women already play an important role in the energy sector; engage women at a higher level in decision-making around energy and natural resources management; conduct gender and energy needs assessments; and take steps to advance women's professional status within the energy sector.
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