World-wide, some 1.6 billion people remain without electricity and some 2.4 billion continue to rely heavily on traditional biomass for fuel, their main source of motive power being human and/or animal labour. Most of these people are poor or near-poor and energy deprivation remains a core cause of their chronic poverty in developing countries. In turn, poverty inhibits people from gaining access to essential energy services, resulting in a vicious cycle that has proven stubborn to break.
Caught in this vicious cycle are the women, for whom lack of access to modern fuels and electricity leaves no choice other than to depend on traditional fuels and physical labour. Long hours spent by women on daily survival tasks -fuel gathering, cooking and household chores - mean they have little room for self-development or for productive activities that can contribute to family incomes and lift them out of poverty. Steep rises in energy prices and their related impact on food prices have been a serious setback for poverty reduction. While poor women struggle to make ends meet at a rising personal cost, millions of the near-poor now find themselves sliding back into poverty.
To raise awareness and build the capacity of policy makers on this issue, the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA), with the help of ESCAP, has launched a policy consultation initiative comprising:
1. An e-consultation among 'prime movers' within the region who are a part of or are closely linked to national energy policy formulation and planning (ongoing).
2. Preparation of discussion papers on key themes by leading energy, poverty and gender experts, capturing the main conclusions emerging from the e-discussion (ongoing).
3. A two-day High Level Regional Policy Meeting on Networking Towards Gender and Poverty Sensitive Energy Policies, 3-4 November 2008 at Bangkok, Thailand.
4. Launch of a 'Regional Policy Innovation Forum' as a follow-up to serve as a community of interacting practitioners and a lobbying force to bring about essential changes in policies at national and international levels.
The forum offers a unique forum to facilitate a sharing of ideas and an exchange of knowledge/experiences among high-level policy makers and leading energy, poverty and gender specialists from government agencies, academia and non-governmental organizations in the region. For further information on this policy dialogue and the issues to be discussed, visit ENERGIA's website http://www.energia.org/