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"Power from the sun" - article in OSCE Magazine

published in OSCE Magazine'Security Community', issue 3, 2013

14.10.2013 | Anke Stock

Energy use affects women differently from men. Women’s economic empowerment is essential for achieving sustainable development that meets the energy needs of the present without compromising future generations, as was already recognized in the Rio Declaration of 1992. But inefficient, labour-intensive methods of producing energy often hinder women from playing an equal role in society.

Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) is a network of over 100 organizations mainly from Western Europe, Central Asia, Caucasus and the Balkans that was founded shortly after Rio to bring women’s perspectives to policy makers. WECF also implements local projects that promote a healthy environment and strengthen the role of women. Recently, it has helped women in the OSCE region to gain economic empowerment by harnessing the power of the sun.

In some regions of Ukraine and Georgia, wood is still a major source of energy for heating and cooking. Women are usually the ones who spend time gathering firewood and tending fires to heat water for household chores or prepare meals. WECF implemented a project in these regions to assist households in switching to solar heating systems. Together with its German partner Solar Partner Süd it trained women to install and maintain solar panels themselves.

In Tajikistan, many women and children are left to fend for themselves when men leave the country to seek employment abroad. In the town of Dehkanobod, about 30 km from the capital city Dushanbe, a group of women decided to supplement their incomes by growing and selling vegetables and fruits. A major obstacle was the high cost of energy to run greenhouses.

WECF proposed that they build solar greenhouses. In contrast to traditional models, they are not expensive and can be set up without great skill. They store warmth and allow growers to reap an early first harvest.

With funds from WECF and practical advice from its local partners, the women constructed the solar greenhouses and started using them in the spring of this year. They were able to sell tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs in Dushanbe and the local market.

These are just two examples, of modest initiatives bringing small changes. But WECF has learned that decentralized projects implemented with the help of local partners can have a snowball effect. They can be the beginning of a larger movement. Of taking responsibility, for gender equality and for the earth we live on.

Dr. Anke Stock is a senior gender and rights lawyer at the WECF. She presented the gender perspective on promoting sustainable energy at the Second Preparatory Meeting for the 21st OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum in Kyiv, held on 16 and 17 April 2013.

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