Women: The Power House of Energy
Gender Lens approach to Energy
The energy sector remains one of the least gender-diverse sectors and closing this gender gap will be vital as women are key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. A clean energy transition will require innovative solutions and business models to be adopted and greater participation from a diverse talent pool.
With a “gender lens” approach to energy access programs, the millions of dollars flowing to energy access initiatives around the globe can have a greater impact on women’s empowerment.
Understanding the energy needs of women and girls
Women are intrinsically part of the process of rural energy requirements, as they are engaged in the provision of vital amenities, such as safe and sufficient water for domestic needs, fodder for cattle, farming activities and so forth. Women and energy have a strong relationship, for they are the ones who work more to source it and utilize it.
Limited access to energy is a problem that has a disproportionate effect on women, especially in rural areas. It is most often women who must expend large amounts of time and physical effort to supply fuel for their households and productive needs, using their own labour to carry heavy loads over increasingly long distances, at great risk to their health and safety.
In cases where there is limited availability of fuelwood, the food habits of the family change which in turn affects its nutritional requirements Other health hazards arise from the fact that women do most of the cooking. They and their young children are exposed to large amounts of smoke and particulates from indoor fires and suffer from a number of respiratory diseases.
Lack of energy services is directly correlated with the major elements of poverty, including inadequate healthcare, low education levels and limited employment opportunities. Women spend up to eight hours a day in household chores while the young children stay with them. Inefficient use of biomass in the traditional stoves coupled with insufficient ventilation causes severe health hazards, and most of it affects women and girl children.
Women in Energy Sector
Despite making up 48% of the global labour force – women only account for 22% of the traditional energy sector. For management levels, the numbers are even lower. The barriers women face in the energy sector are similar to those they face elsewhere in the economy. However, the challenges of the energy sector are more pressing since the sector is going through a process of transformation; clean energy transitions will require innovative solutions and business models to be adopted and greater participation from a diverse talent pool.
IEA Ministers adopted a communique that specifically endorsed increased efforts to build up and share knowledge to help tackle issues related to future human capacity needs, including equal opportunities for women and men in the energy sector. Since then, they have been working on their strategy to deliver the mandate. Forthcoming IEA work includes data collection on the gender composition of corporate boards, as well as employment and the gender of inventors of energy technologies in the energy sector.
Women’s empowerment in energy
Globally, small numbers of women enter the energy sector; many leave because of gender biases, lack of adequate training and opportunities, inadequate policies to attract or retain women, workplace inflexibility, and unequal pay, among other reasons.
Some effective tools to facilitate women’s empowerment in energy include:
Skills development and training
Showcasing role models
Providing networking opportunities
Improving recruitment and retention policies
Recognizing women’s accomplishments in the field
Ensuring access to finance and capital for entrepreneurs
In the past decade, awareness and understanding within the energy sector, that energy access and use have different impacts on women and on men, have increased. What is needed now, is empirical evidence to support this premise. This evidence, in turn, needs to be translated into concrete proposals for policies and changes in practice that women and men can benefit from.
Access to energy is key in opening up a new world of opportunities for women and men in developing countries. However, it is crucial to involve and hear women voices in how to minimize the negative impacts and maximise the positive impacts and opportunities associated with energy access.
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