More action needed to implement ECOWAS Energy Gender Mainstreaming Policy – Former ERERA Chair

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi
A Senior Expert in Energy Regulation under the EU-funded Technical Assistance Programme to ECOWAS towards improving governance in the ECOWAS Energy sector, Mrs Ifey Ikeonu, making her presentation at the workshop
A Senior Expert in Energy Regulation under the EU-funded Technical Assistance Programme to ECOWAS towards improving governance in the ECOWAS Energy sector, Mrs Ifey Ikeonu, making her presentation at the workshop

A Senior Expert in Energy Regulation under the EU-funded Technical Assistance Programme to ECOWAS, Mrs Ifey Ikeonu, says more action is needed by the various governments in the ECOWAS member states to ensure the implementation and realisation of the ECOWAS Energy Gender Mainstreaming Policy.

She said since the passage of the ECOWAS Energy Gender Mainstreaming Policy in 2017, little had been done by the governments in the member states to ensure the full implementation of the policy.

Speaking at the end of a four-day workshop organised by the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA), to build the capacity of communication experts from the electricity regulatory authorities in the ECOWAS member countries on Saturday, October 2, 2021, at Akosombo in the Eastern region, Mrs Ikeonu, noted that most member states were yet to adopt the directives of the policy and put in place the enabling legal and institutional arrangements to give effect to the policy at the national level.

For her, advocacy and sensitisation on the issue of gender mainstreaming would be very important in stimulating action from key actors and also in creating the required awareness on the benefits of gender mainstreaming and its related impacts on sustainable development.

The policy

The ECOWAS Policy on Gender Mainstreaming for Energy Access was enacted on June 4, 2017 through the Supplementary Act A/SA.2/0617.

The overall vision of the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access is a world where men and women shall enjoy equal access to modern energy services that is easily available, affordable and contributes to high levels of standards of living and economic development.

Among the objectives of the policy was to ensure that the specific interests of women and men, as stakeholders, are taken into account in the development of energy projects.

Similarly, the ECOWAS Gender Mainstreaming Policy is also intended to encourage the development of harmonised policy and legal regulatory frameworks in each Member State and for ECOWAS institutions.

Rationale

Mrs Ikeonu, who is an Energy Policy and Regulation Consultant, explained that the policy had been designed to provide policymakers with instrumental and human rights based indicators and rigorous arguments to align energy interventions with principles of gender.

For her, the policy directives served as a legal framework to guide ECOWAS member state policy makers and regulators on the required steps to ensure that energy projects undertaken in the region conform with the objectives of the gender mainstreaming policy.

“Gender mainstreaming is making sure that gender is incorporated in all aspects of energy policies and interventions,” she noted, adding “Gender mainstreaming ensures that proper assessments are made for the use of energy, the sources of energy, productive uses and payment in planning and executing energy projects.”

She was of the view that “Gender mainstreaming ensures that gender concerns, needs and interests and differences are considered in all planning and policymaking and project implementation and monitoring.”

Mrs Ikeonu, who is a former Chairperson of the ERERA, noted that although ECOWAS was one of the first regions in the continent to put in place a robust framework for gender mainstreaming in the energy sector, comprising of the Policy document as well as the Directive, “the major challenge remains with implementation.”

The workshop

The workshop was on the fundamentals of regulation and introduction to the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Market.

It is part of the ongoing Technical Assistance of the European Union (EU) to ERERA relating to the EU-funded programme on Improving the Governance of the Energy Sector in the ECOWAS region (AGOSE-AO).

Among the specific objectives of the training workshop was to enhance the knowledge of communication experts on all aspects of the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Market—Market Development, Transmission Services, Information Management, and Gender Mainstreaming.

It was attended by 13 representatives from 11 member states, namely Ghana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, The Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ghana and Ivory Coast had two participants each, whilst the remaining countries had one representative each.