Mano River Union states hold conference on women’s access to energy in SierraLeone

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Words & Picture by Jaime Barry

Mano River Union states including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Ivory Coast convened in Freetown to adopt a plan to increase women’s access to renewable energy. The ministers of energy and gender from across the region were present as President Koroma pledged to support women in Sierra Leone, the MRU and ECOWAS.

According to Sierra Leone’s Minister for Energy, Mr. Oluniyi Robin-Coker, the conference is a follow-up to an ECOWAS high level energy forum held in Ghana in October 2012. It was there that he said that ECOWAS members pledged to develop and adopt gender sensitive energy policies to meet regional targets by 2014.

The ECOWAS Gender Development Center will support the MRU to distribute the conference across other ECOWAS Member states. The outcome will also be presented at the upcoming Vienna Energy Forum, in Austria at the end of the month.

In her opening statement, the Secretary General of the Mano River Union Hadja Dr. Saran Daraba Kaba, stated that, participants will present a sub-regional Action Plan on Women’s Economic Empowerment through access to energy. She also added that a platform for the establishment of a sub-regional working group on women and sustainable energy in the MRU sub region would be created. Dr. Kaba praised the Barefoot Women Solar Engineers (a women’s group in Sierra Leone which install solar panels across the country in Mosques, Churches, local courts, community centres, etc. and train other women as well). According Dr. Kaba, the Barefoot Women are a symbol of success in energy efficiency for women across Africa.

The conference was a joint effort by the government of Sierra Leone, the Mano River Union, ECOWAS centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREE), the United Nation Industrial Development Organization and the African Development Bank (AfDB).