Access to energy is central to reducing poverty and hunger, improving health, increasing literacy, supporting small business development and income generation and improving the lives of women and children. The Department of Energy is mandated to provide universal basic access to energy. Yet in Africa's largest economy, and largest polluter, poverty remains widespread and four million households do not use electricity for cooking. Women are more likely to be poor and unemployed. When they work, they earn less than men. In many households, energy is a woman's responsibility. She needs energy to cook and heat water, and she is responsible for fetching wood or buying prepaid electricity. This gendered aspect of energy policy has too often been inadequately addressed by South African policy makers. A gendered energy policy would consider the likely effect of its recommendations on residential consumers, and how these effects may be improved.
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