Empowering women as clean energy leaders

By Julia Brous Sard
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, March 8, 2016
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As it stands, women continue to face barriers in their roles as executives, entrepreneurs and employees within the energy industry, while their representation at global and national energy bodies also remains minimal. Gender discrimination, education and training disparities, and restrictive social norms that all target women represent structural barriers that inhibit female participation and empowerment in this sector (UN Women, 2013).

In developing countries, women represent about 20 percent of workers in the energy sector, while globally less than 7 percent of ministerial positions in the energy and environment industries are held by women (ILO, 2007; International Parliamentary Union, 2011; UN Women, 2010).With a vast female demographic persistently underutilized, a crucial source of intellect, innovation and entrepreneurship is being missed.

Through sponsorships and partnerships with organizations such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cool Stoves and the Solar Sisters renewable energy project in Africa, UN Women has been actively supporting women's engagement in initiatives that promote sustainable energy practices. The Solar Sisters social enterprise is one example, among many, where women are taking the lead in producing clean, renewable energy solutions that concurrently empower women at the community level.

UN Women is also focused on promoting women's presence at the leadership level in the energy sector. In December 2015, UN Women announced the launch of a joint flagship program with UN Environment Programme on Sustainable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Access. Launching initially in Morocco, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Senegal and Bolivia, the program seeks to work alongside respective governments to sustainably remove barriers that female entrepreneurs face in each context.

As the greatest global investor in renewable energy initiatives, China is strongly poised to serve as a leader in the empowerment of women in this field. Such leadership would not only contribute to the promotion of gender equality, but could have strategic benefits in promoting economic growth and adaptive solutions around climate change mitigation. President Xi Jinping's recent 20 billion yuan ($3.06 billion) pledge towards addressing climate change resilience and poverty in developing contexts presents China with a vital leadership opportunity to ensure that women's perspectives are strengthened both at local and all-important leadership levels within its energy and development initiatives. The gravity of the challenges facing the global community requires innovation and entrepreneurship that match the scale of these issues. Women-half of the world's potential, and already at the forefront of such solutions at the local level-are poised to deliver.

The author is country program manager from UN Women China.


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