Providing women with access to clean energy is crucial in the fight against poverty and gender inequality. Women experience energy poverty at higher rates than men and are more likely to die from indoor air pollution caused by nonrenewable household energy solutions. When women have access to electricity, they have greater opportunities to pursue an education, find employment and become civically involved. This article examines three renewable energy initiatives that empower women to create change within their communities and lives.
The Importance of Including Women in the Renewable Energy Sector
The renewable energy sector has ample employment opportunities, with a projected 29 million job opportunities by 2050. While this creates room for women within the workforce, 68% of hires are men. The World Economic Forum (WEF) explains that empowering women in the industry and in their communities “will strengthen economic and social progress and support governments to deliver gender-balanced, sustainable energy for all.”
Including women also has a positive impact on the energy sector. When women run energy enterprises, work in energy and create energy policies, the policies are more efficient. The utilities earn more revenue and sell more energy commodities. Thus, including women in the industry can help improve efficiency and generate profit.
As WEF explained, empowering women in their communities can be transformative. When given the opportunity, one woman can power 50 homes in her community. This is because women “hold strong social capital in communities, [so] they are better able to reach out to other women to generate awareness about clean energy solutions and its positive impacts on their lives.” It is clear that working to empower women with renewable energy opportunities benefits both the industry and communities.
3 Projects that Empower Women with Renewable Energy
Despite the fact that women are underrepresented in the renewable energy sector, there are many organizations that empower women with renewable energy initiatives.
- Solar Sister: The U.N. describes Solar Sister as “an award-winning social enterprise advancing women’s entrepreneurship to bring off-grid electricity and clean cooking solutions to underserved communities across sub-Saharan Africa.” Solar Sister trains women in entrepreneurship and equips them with the services and goods they will need for their sustainable businesses. These women, in turn, provide renewable energy to those in need in rural communities in African countries. Currently, Solar Sister works in Nigeria and Tanzania and has previously worked in Uganda. The organization hopes to be actively working in five countries by 2022. As of 2020, Solar Sister has trained more than 5,000 entrepreneurs who have provided electricity to almost two million people.
- Barefoot College: Barefoot College is an organization in India that trains women to be entrepreneurs, solar engineers and teachers so that they can bring electricity and education to their communities. Barefoot College works in more than 2,000 villages and 93 countries. The organization provides solar energy education, training, empowerment programs, clean water initiatives, education for children and healthcare programs.
- ENVenture: The ENVenture program, sponsored by New Energy Nexus, supports Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in villages in Uganda so that these CBOs can establish clean energy businesses. After a year, the CBOs that perform the best receive more financial support. ENVenture has helped provide energy access to 95,000 people. It has created 600 jobs, 70% of which are filled by women.
These three projects show how renewable energy initiatives can empower women and benefit communities. Whether through financial support or education, these organizations are empowering women with renewable energy solutions to expand their horizons. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make renewable energy and women’s empowerment a priority.
– Sophie Shippe