During the International Women’s Month, ACCESS Coalition celebrates women who have made strides in the clean energy sector.

Women and girls are often the primary household energy managers and those living in poverty spend hours a week collecting biomass fuels for cooking and heating. This exposes them to health risks due to the exposure of unclean fuels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), about 2.8 million deaths are caused by indoor air pollution every year, with majority being women and girls.

Still, few women have pursued careers or entrepreneurship opportunities in the energy sector. During the ‘Decade of Action’ women will play a significant role in contributing to meeting the SDG 7 targets.

Dorothy Kazombo Mwale, Malawi

What inspired you to work in the clean energy sector?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that about 9% of Malawi’s population has access to electricity. Malawi’s National Charcoal Strategy (2020 – 2025) shows that 97% of households rely on fuelwood as their primary source of energy for cooking. As a result of this, women and girls are subject to increased risk of physical assault while collecting firewood because they have to walk lengthy distances.

This was my inspiration to take on initiatives that promoted sustainable forms of clean energy such as solar power, construction of more hydropower stations, amongst other things, in order to increase access to clean energy. This would prevent women and girls from putting themselves in danger while searching for fuelwood, and it would also allow them to spend their time on more productive endeavours, such as focusing on their education for girls, and for women pursuing other income generating activities.

What are the key achievements of your organization in this sector

I work with the Network on Climate Change in a campaign on ‘Energy Just Transition and the Promotion of Alternative Renewable Energy’ among young women, in collaboration with the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development (JCED) in Kasungu, Malawi. We train women on sustainable energy use, such as construction of energy efficient ceramic stoves.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your line of work?

Some of the limitations we have faced are limited funding opportunities, making it harder to implement more projects on energy access. Another challenge is lack of affordable and reliable clean energy sources, which makes it difficult to persuade people to adopt other sustainable forms of energy especially those living in hard-to-reach areas.

What’s your message as we commemorate International Womens’ Month?

Women and girls need to be in spaces where they can make decisions and take part in initiatives on energy access that create impact.