Each year, International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to recognise the remarkable achievements of girls and women. It’s also a time to highlight the ongoing challenges they face. One often overlooked issue that continues to limit the ability of millions of women to thrive is lack of access to affordable, clean energy for cooking.

Since 2010, more than 1.5 billion people have gained access to clean and modern cooking fuels around the world including biofuels and electricity among others. Yet today, at a time of growing economic disparity, more than one in every three women have no choice but to cook over smoky, toxic fires fuelled by wood, charcoal, and kerosene to prepare meals for themselves and their families.

The smoke emitted from cooking over open fires and inefficient stoves produces serious health and climate harming emissions that lead to more than four million premature deaths each year. The burden of this health crisis falls disproportionately on women and children, and in Africa it is the second leading cause of premature deaths in this demographic. The time for change on this issue is long overdue.

Moreover, the time and effort required to gather these fuels further exacerbates deep-seated gender inequalities. These arduous tasks often prevent girls and women from pursuing education, earning a livelihood, and participating in other community activities. This burden comes at an estimated cost of USD 1.4 trillion a year in negative health impacts and lost productivity in addition to the environmental and climate costs.

Urgent action on clean cooking is no less than a life-and-death matter for millions on women, especially in Africa, where the number of people relying on polluting cooking fuels and stoves continues to rise. That’s why our organisations are working together, and with other leaders across Africa and beyond, to address this crisis. On 14 May, the IEA and the African Development Bank will host a high-level Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa, supported by the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA), to dramatically accelerate commitments on finance, policy, and collaboration efforts to tackle the troubling lack of clean cooking deployment. Co-chaired by the President of Tanzania and the Prime Minister of Norway, the Summit will work towards three priority outcomes:

  • Increasing commitments to clean cooking from public and private funders with the aim of reaching USD 4 billion of mobilised capital investments annually from now to 2030.
  • Cementing clean cooking as a global priority that leads to the development of ambitious strategies with enabling policy environments.
  • Supporting multi-stakeholder partnerships on clean cooking access at the country level and removing barriers to the growth of clean cooking across the continent.

Full and equal participation of women and girls is essential in the fight against climate change and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our aspirations for gender equality worldwide will be unattainable if we cannot address this challenge. As a global community, we must act to ensure that a woman’s life is not limited by the means she has for cooking and that we empower women to lead the way towards a cleaner, healthier and more inclusive future for us all.

Women are the driving force behind clean cooking transitions, as beneficiaries and agents of change.  When women are provided with the tools and resources they need, they become advocates, educators, and leaders within their communities. Their stories of overcoming challenges and embracing new technologies inspire others to do the same.

The clean cooking value chain also offers new pathways for women’s economic empowerment, providing opportunities for women entrepreneurs and employees to contribute to a thriving global industry for clean cooking.  Women are at the forefront of the growing clean cooking sector, leading companies, research and advocacy. Their unique insights and understanding of local needs can help tailor clean cooking solutions to specific contexts, making these solutions more accessible and appealing to users. As women take on economic roles in the clean cooking sector, they challenge traditional gender norms and pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse industry. 

The economic empowerment of women in this sector has a multiplier effect on communities, as women tend to reinvest their income in ways that benefit not only their families but also the broader social fabric. In this way, clean cooking becomes a catalyst for sustainable development, where women are both the driving force and the beneficiaries of positive change. 

On this International Women’s Day, we recognise the amazing women around the world forging the path towards universal access to clean cooking – feeding their families every day, working in sales, designing better stoves that women want to use, running leadership teams, designing financial instruments, and implementing policy. And we call upon global leaders to prioritise the health, safety and empowerment of women and girls as an investment in their well-being, their lives, and their communities, all around the world.