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Namagunga girls fire tough questions at Minister


Mukono, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth Nankabirwa, together with officials from the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), have faced surprisingly challenging questions about the energy sector’s performance from secondary school students, showcasing their keen interest and deep understanding of the sector.

The minister and the students were at the launch of the 2024 Women in Energy Career Guidance Engagement in schools at Mount St Mary’s College, Namagunga. The meeting was attended by a cross-section of the school’s science students, from senior three up to senior six. The students’ questions ranged from sector performance, social inclusion, electricity prices, to the ministry’s environmental protection mechanisms, among others.

“Thank you very much for the pertinent questions; these are mature questions I didn’t expect from you,” said the surprised minister. “This only means that you are tuned to face the world. Thank you for being up to date with the matters around you. I want to assure you that the ministry, with its agencies and departments, has answers to them all.”

Most notably, one question addressed the solution to women in villages who still use firewood as their source of energy, despite the presidential directive, and the alternative, electricity, which still has higher tariffs and has yet to reach the furthest corners of the country.

The students also sought clarity on whether it is prudent for Uganda to explore its oil resources, considering the environmental destruction challenges it poses, especially at this point in time. They also wanted answers on why the engagement targets upscale schools yet there are many young girls in the countryside who also need the same.

In response, the minister informed the students that as policy, the government has enacted the required laws in the energy and minerals sector, like the Mineral and Mines Act enacted in 2022, which protects the people of Uganda and the country’s interests, including the environment. “We are going to start seeing Product Sharing Agreements (PSAs) in this sector, similar to those in the petroleum sector,” she added.

Nankabirwa also emphasized that for a more comprehensive solution to most challenges, more women need to get involved in managing the sector, which is the purpose of the Women in Energy series – to encourage many younger women to take part.

“The participation of women is critical; you need a lady to consider certain aspects,” she said. “Women involvement in critical portfolios like electricity has a significant impact because they are the practitioners who are affected by the services’ impacts daily and can easily find solutions. This is why we are mobilizing you to join in. We are here to tell you how and what it is. Women in male-dominated spaces are excelling and doing excellently well.”

Cecilia Nakilanda, the Commissioner for Electric Power in the Ministry of Energy, reminded the students that the government has implemented all necessary measures to protect the environment ahead of the oil exploration project. She assured that the government is as concerned about the environment but cannot halt a project that will act as a springboard to develop the country’s economy.

“This resource is going to spur other industries that will benefit our economy, and when you weigh it, you conclude that we should actually continue to develop our resource,” she explained.

She assured the girls that nothing will deter the government from developing its oil resources

The engagement with the students, underscores the vital role of empowering and mobilizing the young generation to pick interest in the energy sector, this can pave the way for sustainable development and a brighter future for the sector.

Since the start of the series in 2019, over 20,000 younger women across the country have been impacted and after it’s launch this particular edition is heading to eastern Uganda first before going to the west, for the same cause.



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