H.E. Nazi Kivutha, the First Lady of Makueni County and the Chair of the County First Ladies Association CFLA began her conference opening remarks by thanking the conveners for the invitation to be the guest speaker to officially open the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference. She again thanked the conveners, the Ministry of Energy and other stakeholders for making the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference free of charge to participants.
CFLA is a forum of the women spouses of sitting elected County Governors. CFLA seeks to advocate for and promote economic, social, health and cultural rights and programs in the counties. A force to be reckoned with, the County First Ladies are more than flower girls, they are a group of hardworking, enlightened and educated women leaders. The CFLA is a professional, registered organization whose members include all the County First Ladies.
The Office of the First Lady occupies a unique position at the pinnacle of society and government. It promotes a platform to champion important social and development goals at the county level. As Mama County, the First Lady influences decision makers and advocates for women and girls. As such the County First Lady acts as a unifying factor in the community through various initiatives. One of those initiative is Keeping Girls in School, a sanitary towel project which runs across all counties because it is a necessity for girls. County First Ladies also support the efforts of the First Lady H.E. Margaret Kenyatta through the Beyond Zero campaign it touches on women and children
There are many county specific projects and initiatives. The First Lady of Narok promotes eco-manyattas, modernized environmentally friendly housing projects. In Kakamega, the First Lady supports expecting mothers by encouraging them to deliver their new-born in hospitals through Oparanya Care. CFLA initiatives and efforts will continue growing as newly inducted First Ladies bring on-board their projects.
The County First Ladies are also involved in mentorship and counselling programs that may include family planning. H.E. Nazi Kivutha is a firm believer that mentoring is one way to link broad board room discussions to novel solutions at the grassroots and county levels. She mentors students finishing Form 4, encouraging them to continue with their education and become professionals. She tells them that individual motivation plays a role in achieving what they want to be.
CFLA’s various projects in housing, health, and mentorship touch on women, and children. They promote the total well-being of mothers and children in the counties. These initiatives and programs show that the County First Ladies play a vital role in devolution.
Forums such as Women in Energy Awards and Conference, should recognize that CFLA is a serious platform, rather than inviting CFLA to conferences, seminars because they feel the First Ladies can make a good entry point to the counties. There are those who mistakenly believe First Ladies bring up county leadership and development issues to their respective County Governors as a course of household matters—they could not be more wrong. County leadership and development matters are addressed together with ministers and other professionals to find the best way for the county to forge ahead. While First Ladies are not recognized in the Constitution, but that is not a deterrent because County First Ladies partners who successfully organization support their projects and goals.
In the energy sector, the gender gap needs to be narrowed. There are still very few women engineers. At the business level, there are very few women taking advantage of the business opportunities in the country. With Kenya generating less than 20,000 jobs annually, there is a chance the renewable energy sector will be able to provide the necessary employment and business opportunities.
The County First Ladies would like to support and strengthen women’s participation in the energy sector at the grassroots level through mentorship programs for women entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators in the counties. Furthermore, CFLA would like to facilitate the development of authentic communities who are putting their best foot forward and going above the call of duty to influence the landscape of the energy sector. CFLA also acknowledged the 2016 year’s winners who went on to win international awards as an indicator of the potential we have for women in the energy sector.
Five million homes were connected to the grid in the last 5 years, presenting an enormous opportunity for value-addition and micro industries at the grassroots level. CFLA urges donors and government to focus on generating income in addition to paying the bills.
Energy is an essential product in everyday life. At the household level, women have for decades spent many hours sourcing for energy through the collection of firewood, burning charcoal and cow dung to ensure they serve their families a well-cooked meal. However, these forms of energy burn insufficiently. In addition, they give of noxious and unpleasant fumes. Despite women facing these hurdles, many women continue to have little or no voice in making decisions about solutions to energy problems. Though various government initiatives continue to roll out in the rural communities, women’s representation in these initiatives is still very low. Women need to be involved in the design and policy implementation of projects that meet their energy needs.
The unequal distribution of energy due to insufficient infrastructure and slow adoption of new forms of energy, contributes to the high cost of production and supply, and inhibits active participation and funding opportunities for women entrepreneurs. These are a few of the challenges in the energy sector that need to be explored and addressed effectively.
When invited to be the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference guest speaker, H.E. Nazi Kivutha was apprehensive, because the issues addressed at such forums are typically associated with Kenya Power, Geothermal Development Company and other big petrol and petroleum companies such as Kobil and Vivo Energy. As the Makueni County First Lady, she questioned what solutions she has to offer, given her interests lie at the county level, to see to it that women have fuel to cook and children have sufficient lighting to complete their studies and successfully sit for their exams.
In the energy sector, there is a need for more creativity and less reliance on the huge energy providers. We need to look more closely at biogas and bioenergy. What innovative solutions can be created with the waste in pit toilets? In Makueni County, there are 400 primary schools, many of which have pit toilets. How can we tap the energy stored in the pit toilets for the communities? Or does bioenergy only count when it uses cow dung and manure from other animals? If we are serious about renewable energy, we should consider how we can harness the energy trapped pit toilets. Communities need to build incinerators to eliminate sanitary waste, thus segregating what would be comingled. This is a solution that does not require large companies but innovation at the grassroots and ‘wananchi,’ the common citizen, taking stock of what can be renewed.
Rather than looking at the multi-million projects, there is a need for small projects in the counties, in schools, which will be of significant impact to the people in the counties.
Greetings from all the County First Ladies. Some of the County First Ladies were unable to attend Women in Energy Awards and Conference due to a conflicting event and others are at work in ‘ushago,’ their rural homes.
The County First Ladies Association will be available and ready to partner in projects that impact women and girls at the grassroots level such as Keeping Girls in School. Engagements and partnerships must go beyond seminars and conferences, which are important because that is where policy is developed. Engagements and partnerships must connect with the people who will implement the policies. Engagements and partnerships must be followed through until they reach the common man and woman at the heart of the nation’s counties, in the towns, villages and markets. The common ‘wananchi,’ common citizen needs the assurance they will sufficiently meet their energy needs.
With these remarks, and the authority granted as the County First Ladies Association Chair, H.E. Nazi Kivutha, with great pleasure, officially declared the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference open.