by Peter Mutai
NAIROBI, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- African ministers on Sunday launched a new initiative aimed at involving women directly in the energy sector.
The Africa Women Energy Entrepreneurs Framework (AWEEF), which was launched in Nairobi by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), seeks to galvanize political commitment from governments and development partners to attract investment in tackling issues of access to clean and affordable energy in the continent.
"Unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurs in sustainable energy is critical to the achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063," said Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu at the launch.
Wakhungu noted that AMCEN will provide necessary support to this initiative and urged other partners to join in.
AMCEN is committed to finding innovative environment solutions to many environment problems that affects Africa, she said.
AWEEF was proposed during the 16th session of the AMCEN in Libreville, Gabon, in June.
The meeting agreed to bring women entrepreneurs as change agents and main stakeholders in the energy sector, given their vast engagement in the collection and use of biomass that ranges several decades in the absence of access to electricity and renewal energy.
The initiative includes a comprehensive set of policy recommendations, creating access to finance and market as well as developing technical and business skills to enhance women's empowerment and promote gender equality in situations of sustainable energy development.
AWEEF will also play a leading role in strengthening political will and commitment from governments and development partners to attract investment.
"Women disproportionately bear the burden of energy poverty and face significant health and safety risks from household air pollution, from carrying heavy fuel loads, and from the lack of lighting," said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, director and regional representative of UN Environment in Africa.
"UN Environment hope that AWEEF will enable African women play a leading role across the energy value chain," Koudenoukpo said.
According to the UN, over 600 million people in the continent still do not have access to electricity while over 600,000 people, 60 percent of them women, die each year as a result of household air pollution.