Women and Clean Energy in West Africa (WOCEWA)


Project Title Women and Clean Energy in West Africa (WOCEWA)
Program Gender Mainstreaming
Thematic Area Cross-Cutting
Project ID (If Applicable) :
Goal to reduce the gender gap in the energy sector in West Africa consistent with the policy for gender mainstreaming in energy access of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS, through a assessment businesses led by women.
In this way, WOCEWA will work with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in West Africa’s energy sector, transforming them into vehicles that empower women and address gender barriers through their business operations. To achieve this, WOCEWA will identify limitations to their meeting gender-specific requirements, devise solutions and support them to adopt these solutions.
Start Month & Year February 2024
Closing Month & Year February 2027
Duration (Years) 3 Years
Budget USD 1,135,314
Funding Partner IDRC
Other Partners (If Applicable) West African Power Pool (WAPP) & ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA)
Coordinator Dr Prisca ZIDAGO


According to the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access: Challenges of gender inequality in the energy sector originate almost entirely from the lack of gender considerations in the planning process. The social construction of gender roles, responsibilities, and rights suffer because of this. By extension, this has resulted in legal frameworks reflecting these norms that have historically granted (and in some cases continue to grant) differential rights as a result of an individual’s gender. It has also resulted in an economic legacy whereby classes of people, based on their gender, have not had the same opportunity to acquire, grow, and transfer wealth due to their inequal access to land, labour, financial capital and human capital. These inequalities have come to be reflected over time in the various energy policy and planning machineries, which typically possessed a male-leaning culture and approached work in the sector in a manner that disregarded gender differences. Fortunately, the greatest opportunity for breaking down gender inequalities exist at the policy and planning stage, where strong leadership has the potential to dismantle structural barriers and shift the very cultural norms, some ancient, at the root of the problem.
ECOWAS seeks to recognize the main challenges and constraints for gender equality in energy access at three levels:

  • The political level,
  • The level of the energy supplier, be it a public-purpose or private market actor, and
  • The level of the energy consumer

At the political level, the primary obstacle to overcome is the lack of gender-aware discourse and planning. This is a product of several factors including the historical absence of gender balance in national and international politics and the emergence of the energy sector – reflecting similar disequilibria in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – as a stereotypically male endeavour. In the past, male-centric assumptions have gone unchallenged in the absence of either a critical level of female representation or a rigorous system for gender assessment and mainstreaming. To overcome these challenges at the political level and achieve gender mainstreaming in energy access, energy policies that are currently gender neutral have to be revised to include gender dimensions and the ranks of the policy makers and planners will have to evolve:

  • To become more diverse and reflective of/responsive to the whole citizenry, and
  • To acquire additional skills and know-how

At the supplier level, the greatest challenge to achieving gender balance lies in weak educational preparation. Males and females are not encouraged in equitable measure to pursue studies, and eventually careers, in the energy sector. This education gap persists in the private sector where very few women are engaged as entrepreneurs and employees in energy-related businesses. Women are not well informed on business opportunities in the energy sector and often face substantially more challenges than men in accessing credit. Considering that energy sector jobs are often viewed as socially unacceptable for women, disproportionately more public effort must be made to steer women onto energy tracks until the skills and interest gaps are closed. Additional to the challenge of educational preparation, there is also wealth gap meaning women on average require more financial support to complete their training and additional financial flows at business start-up. Empowering women to work in clean energy will require:

  • Encouragement and information services,
  • Educational support, and
  • Financing mechanisms capable of compensating for lower starting assets.

At the consumer level, the challenges for gender equality are numerous and varied, depending on the specific application. One challenge is awareness about product availability, costs and benefits, and maintenance. Another is ability to pay. Female agency and intra-household bargaining power continue to pose difficulties for the adoption of improved energy in some settings. Gender equality at the consumer level requires that women be fully recognized as consumers, be economically empowered, and have equal agency.


WOCEWA aims to work with energy sector SMEs to identify limitations to their meeting gender-specific requirements, devise solutions and support them to adopt these solutions.
The main activities are as follows:

  • Evaluation studies and Gender equality Index (GEI) mainstreaming in clean energy businesses.
  • Institutionalizing gender-responsive investments in national funding programs
    • Annual training workshops for women entrepreneurs on energy and energy-finance is organized at the national level;
    • Networking events organized to support partnership building between the private sector project developers/financiers and WSMEs
  • Systemising gender-responsive information gathering, analysis, reporting, dissemination, and use
    • Awareness (and communication) strategies are developed for developing clean energy projects tailored to the needs of women entrepreneurs in the energy sectors;
    • Information/education/communication materials are developed, published and disseminated.
  • Project management and cross-sectoral implementation with ERERA and WAPP

3. ACHIEVED OUTPUTS (If the project is ongoing)

  • Preparation underway to secure the services of firm consultant to conduct the evaluation of SMEs