Are women losing out in the Green Energy Revolution? The pertinent question that debaters sought answers at the second edition of the Great Energy Debate organized by Strathmore University Advancement office and Energy Research Centre (SERC) on 9th September, 2015 with a focus on ‘The Role of Women in the Energy Sector’. The debate served to provide information on opportunities for women interested in owning and developing businesses in the energy sector with a call to women to participate actively in this industry.
Panelists Ms. Sumayya Hassan Athmani, CEO-National Oil; Prof Izael da Silva, DVC-Strathmore University; Mr. Abubakar Swaleh-General Manager, Kenya Power and Mr. Edward Koranteng, head of Oil and Gas, Chase Bank; tackled the topics policy and access to finance for women in energy sector, opportunities across the value chain and constraints women face in accessing green technologies and livelihoods.
The round- table panel vastly explored available gaps to be bridged by women and approaches that could be taken to fill these gaps. ‘There is a gender gap in the energy sector as traditionally, women have not considered it as an investment avenue.’ Ms. Athmani argued from the perspective that few women had taken top positions in energy organizations while 90% of Kenyan households use biomass energy at a time when green solutions are available.
The National Oil CEO urged women to consider investing in the energy sector and view it as a form of enterprise where they could become business owners and not employees. She explained that her organisation has vibrant mentorship programs for youth to encourage them to take up courses that lead to careers in engineering geared to deconstruct the mindset that engineering is for men. This had seen National Oil working on ‘3M Cylinder Project’; a project that targeted 3million households of the lower income group.
Swaleh from Kenya Power referred the energy sector as the only place guaranteed for success for the country’s economy from the on-going oil exploration initiatives. Swaleh urged organizations to create opportunities for women citing Kenya Power, which has engaged women engineers and allowed them to work at locations of their own comfort for a better results. He added that the organisation’s policies catered for the protection of women hence motivating them to remain in the energy sector. Women were encouraged to take advantage of the 30% procurement opportunities availed by the government with priorities for women, youth and persons with disabilities.
Prof. Izael Da Silva highlighted on the importance of women empowerment in society which he said could only be achieved through capacity building. Strathmore Energy Research Centre had recently trained 20 women on how to design, install, operate and maintain stand-alone solar PV Systems as well as entrepreneurship skills in energy, and believed they would make a great positive impact in society. He was emphatic that embracing the use of naturally available clean energy was the way to go for modern society highlighting the advantages of solar energy.
The debate was an eye-opener for those in the audience and served to inspire women to take up opportunities in the energy industry. The event was sponsored by Parker Randall Eastern Africa and jointly organized by Naipolitans, and Brands and Beyond, in liaison with Strathmore University.