Women Environmental Programme (WEP) is the Partner of the Month of March!

Women Environmental Programme (WEP) is the Partner of the Month of March!

The Executive Director, Priscilla Achakpa, shares her organization’s vision and strategy on the Nigerian market with partners. Here are the excerpts:

What does your organization seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?

Over 120 million Nigerians use firewood for cooking. According to World Health Organization, 98,000 Nigerian women die annually due to the smoke they inhale while cooking with firewood. This statistics is alarming. Therefore it is a core objective of WEP to build the capacity of relevant stakeholders particularly women to be aware of the health risk of using dirty fuels as cooking fuels and change their behavior to clean cooking products. By changing the behaviour of Nigerian women who are the main custodians of household cooking to replace the traditional methods of cooking, we will stimulate demand for clean cook stoves. WEP will also encourage women to become merchants themselves; this will open up wealth creation opportunities for women.

What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your organization over the years?

WEP has over 19 years worked with grassroot women. Throughout those years, WEP has engaged strategically with women’s groups, organizations and the Federal government such as the Girls and Women Initiative in Nigeria (G-WIN) project which trained over 4oo women as well as the RUWES (Rural Women Energy Security) which aimed at lowering the market entry barriers of clean energy market at every step from design of clean energy products to their commercial production and distribution in order to build a lasting market for reliable, practical and affordable clean energy technologies. The project empowered women economically by making them marketers and distributors of clean energy products. RUWES clean energy has about two thousand (2,000) women strong membership and is still growing. These women are also well organized in such a way that the best seller progresses to become a leader earning more selling points and increased finances. The income attraction is one of our best-selling strategies where women who seek to go up the ladder strive to sell to as many women as possible. Another opportunity we have as an organization in the market is our long time association with the media which is necessary for massive awareness creation and popularization of clean cook stoves. This will go a long way in creating and sustaining the much needed behavioral change.

Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How has your organization helped to drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?

Empowerment of women to address economic challenges is one of the core objectives of WEP. We have over the years supported many women’s groups in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment to implement projects such Rural Women Renewable Energy Project (RUWES). The intervention focused on providing clean cooking energy for rural women as well as creating jobs for them as distributors/marketers of renewable energy products.

WEP was also commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to implement the training component of the ministry’s Girls and Women Initiative in Nigeria (G-WIN) project. The intervention seeks innovative approaches to reach out to the poorest girls and women by enhancing the already existing opportunities and opening more support to increase the number of girls and women gainfully employed.

400 rural women and girls were trained in 6 States of the geo-political zones in Nigeria on issues of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), Leadership and Conflict Resolution, Slab Construction and Facility Maintenance, water management, cosmetic and soap production.

In the era of sustainable development, it is exceedingly important to implement programmes that drive the process of job creation. The current economic reality amidst dwindling oil prices calls for change in demand and consumer pattern that supports indigenous innovation. Women are critical stakeholders in the economic sector particularly those engaging in small scale enterprises.

Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years in terms of advocating for women empowerment?

In The next five years WEP would have influenced policies on energy/power,agriculture, environment and electoral policies working through the National Gender Policy and the legislature at Federal, State and Local levels to ensure gender balance/inclusion through all levels of project implementation. By this, women’s needs will be more prominent in planning, budgeting allocation projections reflecting in outcomes of actual project implementation and women’s change in status. The impact of renewable energy projects in terms of creating job opportunities for women, making rural women 60% users and merchants of renewable energy technology.

What risk does your organization face and what is your biggest challenge?

One of our organization’s challenges would be the lack of political will and government buy in of gender parity for allocation of funds translated into budgetary heads and actual allocations and release of funds without bottle necks. Another challenge is the shrinking landscape of funding across board especially on gender specific issues. Our organization is therefore overwhelmed with growing women’s issues, increased need for funding and lack of adequate funding to effectively implement programmes to meet at least 15% of women’s need in one of our target area in any given state.

What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?

One is massive awareness creation. As a multi-lingual country, we must be able to address these specific issues in local languages. This will help behavioral change.

Secondly, private sector support is important. As part of their corporate social responsibility the private sector should buy into government policies and align their interventions according to government priorities. Synergy between the public and private sector is important.

Thirdly, the Nigerian government has already signed up to the SDGs and access to energy services is an important element of these goals. It is important to set strong monitoring and evaluation frameworks to ensure we are on target to meet the clean energy goals.

Fourthly, clean cooking energy products should be readily available, accessible, affordable, long lasting and relevant (size/type) to meet women’s need both for the rural poor, urban poor, rural rich and urban rich cooking needs according to their differential cooking needs.

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