Gender-just energy policies in Uganda – a fruitful collaboration between AFIEGO and ARUWE

The fair and equitable production and distribution of energy resources, plus access to green and renewable energy, is not only critical for a healthy planet but also an important matter of just societies and futures. Together with our partners, we recognize issues around energy as ecofeminist matters that need a strong feminist human rights-based approach. That is why we work towards environmental justice, and community-based gender-just climate solutions. One of our inspiring partners and champions in the field of gender equality and environmental action is the Ugandan non-profit ARUWE, Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment. As part of the Green Livelihoods Alliance project, ARUWE accomplished a successful collaboration with the Africa Institute for Energy and Governance (AFIEGO) in Uganda to collectively strive for gender-just energy solutions and local forest management that puts gender equity at its heart. 

AFIEGO advocates for better energy policies to benefit marginalized communities in Uganda who are affected by poverty. Since its foundation in 2005, the Ugandan non-profit has been fighting for clean and renewable energy sources. They work with communities and leaders to ensure that clean energy resources are being used in an equitable way to promote socio-economic development, environmental conservation and human rights.

AFIEGO staff together with GLA Uganda implementing partners. Meeting with women from Bugoma forest who engage in forest restoration programs and practice fruit tree planting to support their livelihoods. January 23, 2023 Nyirongo village, Kikuube district

Much had been achieved by AFIEGO, yet they realized that their fight for sustainable energy policies and climate justice can only be successful if the inclusion and participation of women and other marginalized people is an integral part of the organization’s goals and activities. Women and other groups of people who experience gender-based discrimination, especially those in rural Uganda, are indispensable agents of change in the decision-making processes of energy policies. They can take on a critical role in the transformation towards more just and sustainable energy systems, therefore reducing reliance on coal or wood as fuel. 

“Far from being passive victims, women are key agents of change in sustainably protecting and conserving forest ecosystems.” 

Until that moment, there were no specific strategies at AFIEGO to promote gender-just structures inside the organization or its external activities. Very few women were participating in their activities and there was no specific staff member responsible for gender-related concerns. Social amenities to specifically cater for the female staff at the office, e.g. a breastfeeding room, were limited.   

The observation of these gaps, which presented a challenge towards the full achievement of their objectives, led AFIEGO to take action. To do so, they engaged the support of the GLA gender technical partner, ARUWE. AFIEGO followed the organizational gender assessment and the gender capacity-building training for partners. With the help of ARUWE, they developed a Gender Action Plan (GAP) to address gender-related gaps in their activities and structures.  

AFIEGO meeting with women affected by oil refinery activities. These women engage in forest-based enterprises such as beekeeping. It provides them with an income while promoting forest conservation. January 23, 2023 Kyakaboga village, Hoima District

AFIEGO has updated its gender policy and now has a gender-focal person. Furthermore, they have been successful in reaching many more women than before. Among other things, they now support and empower women in forest-based enterprises to elevate their position in their communities. At the organizational level, AFIEGO has put in place social amenities to accommodate female staff, for example, safe and quiet spaces for breastfeeding mothers. 

The collaboration between AFIEGO and ARUWE led to a fruitful learning process and sparked an important change at AFIEGO. As a result, they now strongly advocate for gender-just climate solutions within Uganda’s energy sector. This success story shows the transformative strength of two partners working together towards gender-just and sustainable solutions that benefit everyone.