- The increase in renewables worldwide creates 12.7 million jobs
- Bangladesh plans to reduce carbon emissions lack focus on gender
- The solar energy sector still employs few women
DHAKA, Nov 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Shefali Khatun separated from her husband, her biggest concern was how she would support her young son and pay all the expenses of their home in central Bangladesh – without work.
Then she heard about a program run by a Bangladeshi green energy initiative that teaches women to build and maintain solar power systems. He signed up, despite having no engineering background or experience in the renewable energy sector.
For five years now, Khatun has been working in solar equipment manufacturing and earns about 10,000 taka ($95) a month, enough to meet his family’s needs and send his son to school.
“This job changed my fortune and helped me become independent,” he said from his home in Mymensingh. “I found that women, too, can be independent and able to support their families.”
Bangladesh’s clean energy industry, which the country says is critical to increasing access to renewable energy and curbing already low greenhouse gas emissions, is creating thousands of new jobs and, with them, opportunities for more women to join the workforce, industry experts say. .
Many Bangladeshi women have access to such opportunities.
A report completed by the European Union last week said that the share of female students enrolled in the master’s program in renewable energy at the University of Dhaka’s Institute of Energy, in the capital city, increased from 17% to 27% between 2019 and 2021.
But some climate campaigners and gender experts say that Bangladesh’s clean energy transition is still leaving women behind, with the government and companies not doing enough to allow women to benefit from the pressure to reduce carbon emissions, even as they are most affected by climate impacts. change.
Bright Green Energy Foundation, the non-governmental organization that trained Khatun, has helped more than 5,000 women workers acquire skills in the production and maintenance of solar home systems in the past decade, said chairman Dipal Barua.
If Bangladesh wants to reach its goal of getting 40% of its electricity from renewables by 2041, it needs more women to build the workforce that installs and maintains systems that provide more clean energy, she added.
“Expansion of solar power in villages will be impossible without involving women,” he said.
WOMEN OF THE WORLD
Efforts to reduce carbon emissions have created about 12.7 million jobs in renewables worldwide and that number could nearly quadruple by 2050, according to a report published this year by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
In the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector, a major employer in the field of renewable energy, the report said that women worldwide make up 40% of the full-time roles involved in the development, construction and installation of solar energy systems.
But most of them are in management jobs – when it comes to positions in the PV sector related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, less than a third are filled by women.
Bangladesh does not collect gender-disaggregated data on its renewable energy sector, but those working in the industry say they see a similar pattern in their companies.
When the Chinese renewable energy company Sungrow built a solar power plant last year in Manikganj, near Dhaka, about 200 workers involved in construction – one in ten of the workforce – were women, said Imran Chowdhury, head of project development in Bangladesh.
Now that the plant is operational, the share of women in the workforce has halved, Chowdhury said, with most of them working in project development, the legal department, management and accounting.
Field-level jobs, such as those involving operations and maintenance, offer more work experience and a higher chance of promotion, but there are few available and they require skills that most female applicants lack, she said.
This is the issue that Arif Raihan Maahi is trying to tackle as chief impact officer of consulting firm Devtale Partners, which trains female engineers who want to enter the green energy sector and encourages them to take on technical and leadership roles.
For many women, family responsibilities and limited formal education often mean they don’t have the experience or time for those roles, Maahi said.
“And when their work ends, women eventually lose motivation and energy,” she said.
Solar power is just one area of the green energy revolution in Bangladesh where women struggle with limited job opportunities.
Jatri Rani Barman was looking for a job that would provide her with a steady income and be suitable for her family life.
He knew how to drive a “light bike”, a three-wheeled electric taxi, which offered a solution – it was a flexible, well-paid job that didn’t require the physical strength required to pull a hand-driven rickshaw all day.
But at first, Barman, 32, faced resistance from friends and family, who told her it wasn’t a woman’s job.
She decided to do it, and is now the only female cyclist in her northwestern town of Sunamganj.
“In the beginning, many people were not motivated to work as a driver,” he said. Now that they know me, they support my work.
For Sharmind Neelormi, climate and gender expert at Jahangirnagar University, the problem starts at the top, the government still does not understand the importance of getting more women involved in the pressure to reduce global warming.
Climate experts have been saying for a long time that the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect women, who due to their social and economic status are more vulnerable during extreme weather events and find it difficult to avoid and adapt to the damage caused.
In Bangladesh, almost 60% of women are involved in agriculture, making their lives very vulnerable to floods, droughts and storms, according to a report published in August by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UN Women.
Bangladesh’s latest climate plan recognizes that addressing women’s needs is key to the success of adaptation measures such as crop insurance support or building barriers to protect farms from flooding, said Neelormi, lead author of the IUCN report.
But, she added, the government is not doing enough to check that measures to reduce global warming – especially to increase clean energy – can provide women.
Power is often seen as a technical issue, but social and gender issues also need to be considered, Neelormi said.
“Unless you specifically design renewable energy initiatives keeping women’s needs in mind, it will not create enough impact,” she said.
Farah Anzum, an independent researcher on climate and gender, said that the first step in clean energy companies and carbon cutting projects is not only to have more women, but also to ensure that they have equal pay, flexible working hours and ways to deal with harassment or inequality. treatment.
“If we provide a safe environment, that allows women, to take jobs and opportunities created by clean energy,” she said.
($1 = 105.2000 taka)
Originally published: https://www.context.news/climate-risks/bangladesh-clean-energy-shift-gives-women-little-chance-to-shine
The report of Md. Tahmid Zami and Mosabber Hossain; Edited by Jumana Farouky and Megan Rowling. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit https://www.context.news/
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