GGCA Members Blog: Insights from the Women Deliver Conference, Copenhagen, May 2016
Live from Women Deliver: Some critical enablers of development and empowerment,
like clean cooking, are still missing from dialogue and implementation
-By Jessie Durrett, Senior Program Associate, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
GGCA Member "Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves" (Alliance) participated in Women Deliver this week in Copenhagen. The conference was the largest gathering on girls’ and women’s health and rights in the last decade and one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Women Deliver conference this week provided an important platform for discussion and collaboration to promote girls’ and women’s well-being and gender equality around the world. Yet, the official discussion insufficiently considered some issues imperative to women and girls’ empowerment, including access to household energy. That said, there is increasing recognition of the negative impacts of household air pollution and unpaid work, which was particularly noticeable among Women Deliver participants from developing countries who do not work on the issues directly but see the challenges posed by inefficient cooking in their countries every day.
Through its engagement, the Alliance aimed to promote an understanding of the role that energy access plays in advancing women’s empowerment and sustainable development. Specifically, increasing access to clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels can deliver dramatic gender and empowerment impacts, while also improving health, protecting the environment, and enhancing livelihoods — all of which help to achieve the SDGs.
The Alliance staff participated in various events and side meetings, exhibited a booth showcasing clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels, and co-hosted an event on collaborative approaches to reduce pneumonia. The conversations with existing and potential partners were productive, especially as the importance of working across sectors to enable broader, lasting gains is increasingly understood.
I came away from Women Deliver 2016 with a number of takeaways:
- Women Deliver, which has traditionally focused more exclusively on reproductive and maternal health, is expanding its scope to cover broader sustainable development issues from the perspective of girls’ and women’s well-being and potential. In these discussions, girls and women are recognized as agents of change, but persisting gender inequalities were also understood.
- No matter their profession, people from developing countries immediately get the connection between household energy access and empowerment-focused development. In side conversations and at the Alliance’s booth, people from countries like Gambia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Nepal, and many others expressed the need for expanded access to clean cooking solutions in their countries and were passionately making the appeal for local and international players to more act quickly and comprehensively. This common theme was heard from participates from across numerous fields, including health, environment, education, human rights and others.
- Issues related to climate and environment were sprinkled into the Women Deliver agenda, although the interconnections between these issues and those traditionally prioritized at Women Deliver were not an overarching consideration. More strikingly, energy access is not yet commonly understood as an issue that is imperative to women’s empowerment, gender equality, public health, and other sustainable development issues. Topics related to energy access, particularly issues like household air pollution and unpaid work, are noticeably underrepresented.
- While there is a greater appreciation for the impact of time poverty, this topics was not central or commonly understood. The slight elevation of attention on time poverty was reflected in Melinda Gates’ announcement that the Gates Foundation would invest $80 million over the next three years to close the gender data gap. She specifically highlighted the deficit of knowledge around how girls and women spend their days in developing contexts and the clear barrier that extensive unpaid work presents for empowerment.
While there was significant discussion on integration, barriers persist and there is still an overarching tendency to overlook integral issues like energy access. It is crystal clear that we need to continue to make the case for integrated approaches and specifically for the prioritization of energy access as an enabler of development and rights. Increased access and adoption of household solutions like clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels are necessary to achieving the SDGs and particularly pertinent to the priority topics of Women Deliver.
ABOUT THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR CLEAN COOKSTOVES
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private partnership hosted by the United Nations Foundation that seeks to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance’s 100 by ’20 goal calls for 100 million households to adopt cleaner and more efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. The Alliance is working with its public, private and non-profit partners to accelerate the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves and fuels in developing countries.
[Note: The views expressed in the GGCA Members Blog Series are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the GGCA membership as a whole].