Makoma Lekalakala – Programme Officer – Earthlife Africa

Women, Energy and Climate Change

This is a gender capacity building workshop for the women and Climate Change Forum. The forum was launched last year as a result of the absence of women within policy-making processes around Energy and Climate Change but also to make women aware about the threats of climate change and encourage them to be part of the formulation of policy in the country. At the moment we don’t have women, or we virtually don’t have women, who are there in those kind of positions that are able to influence policy, but at the same time it is women who are actually from the household and are the ones who are responsible for the energy management… because if there is heating needed and women will have to know how to heat the house, and if there is a need for cooking the kind of meals that we have today…those kind of meals that have been cooked in an energy efficient way … they will have more salads rather than having cooked meals everyday because women want to preserve energy.

This forum was launched last year in August and it has been going on through out and we’ve been able to capacitate more women. Most of the women here come from community-based organisations, from cooperatives and these are women who are involved more in energy efficiency initiatives and they were not aware ..but now the trend is now for them to start those kind of renewable energy projects as opposed to the system that we have now of coal generated electricity… because women are familiar with the impacts of climate change in their communities and they understand that energy system in this country is solely responsible for much pollution that is taking place so they would want to get involved in much more renewable energy projects like having solar villages or small bio digesters so that there can be energy security in the household.

I think part of the forum’s focus, more especially in engagements with the government, is more to lobby in energy efficiency. At the moment I think mostly black women are more energy efficient, especially the poor, women are much more energy efficient than any other person. Most of them they don’t own microwaves, they don’t have electric kettles, they would rather use gas or they use paraffin but when it comes to cooking… when it comes to doing stuff like doing basic laundry they know that they can’t afford electricity to iron and they would use other methods that would make sure that their clothes don’t need that much ironing. When it comes to cooking they would know how to arrange and prepare their meals so that they become more energy efficient. At the moment we have, you know traditionally, you find people like samp, they like tripe “Mogodu” and stuff like that and women have developed ways of how to make those kinds of food in a very short time of space or how to use that without using a lot of electricity. Women would soak samp over night or cook mogodu and put that into a wonder box so that they don’t eat or they don’t use much of electricity, so those are kind of energy efficient methods mechanisms women are involved in. But how ever the corporates and companies in this country are actually the ones that are wasting electricity. You go, for example, to the institutional buildings like to Johannesburg Metro and you find the lights on for the whole night whilst our people know that after 8 o’clock the lights are switched off, television is switched off and plugs are taken off… that is how they save electricity. But in these companies you find computers on for the whole night while there’s nobody there… even when a person is on leave you will still find the lights on in the office, you will still find the computer on, everything on, the printers… so the corporates are the ones that are wasting energy and we know that they are paying less than our people… but when it come to energy efficiency poor people are actually leading because they understand what pollution can do today to their lives and they know that by being energy efficient they are also mitigating against pollution.

Public participation and integrated resource planning

It is very unfortunate that we have processes in this country, policy legislation and the implementation thereof, that is not being taken seriously. At the moment there is a process around which is called integrated resource planning (IRP) which is around electricity supply planning for the next 25 years but as I’m talking to you now I can say that it may only be the women in this room and some of their constituencies, that are familiar with that kind of process which is taking place and a whole lot more South Africans are not familiar with that. So if women or communities were involved in the processes and planning and there was adequate consultation and the department of energy would make sure that there is participatory consultation and they inform people as to what has got to be done, I think that would change… but as part of this forum’s mandate I think by lobbying we would try to make the departments understand that you can’t just decide on behalf of people and because they don’t know. I think there are processes and legislation that supports that, if they sit down and decide on the integrated resource plan for electricity supply for the coming 20 to 25 years that will be illegal because the public was not aware of that information and also the public didn’t participate in the formulation of that kind of policy and because we know that it is very integral and very important to our everyday survival.

Electricity tariff hikes 2010

As a forum we are not happy about the tariff hikes that have been brought by government and Eskom due to the fact that they are actually as a result of the kind of electricity generation that we have in the country which is coal, and a lot of women especially poor women in this country are the one which are bearing the cost of externalized costs that are related to coal generation. When there are fires it is because women are forced to use dangerous and dirty forms of electricity like paraffin, like wood and coal and this is actually causing more fires in the household and also has an impact on the health of women and the children… that is why we have our hospitals having problems to cope with the kind of externalised problems that we have from coal. When people are coughing, you know, or people have asthma and stuff, these are caused by dirty electricity like having to be forced to use paraffin.