A study says, about 1.1billion people worldwide are dependent on Renewable Energy. And, renewable energy will play a leading role both in developed and developing countries in coming future. Research on various energy sectors on the usage of energy suggest that Women have an important role to play in sustainable energy development. Renewable energy and gender equality are preconditions for sustainable development and for the management of climate change; this is envisioned by SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AGENDA 2030 of the United Nations.
Given the critical role of energy in enabling sustainable development, efforts are on for sustainable energy delivery. A number of small-scale solutions that increase women’s opportunities and enhance sustainability have recently been implemented by UNDP-UNEP PEI, and UN Women. Their aim is to make climate and environment policies more gender sensitive and bring women to a clean energy path and include them in climate resilient initiatives. These are also combined with actions at the political level and linked with national policy processes in order for structural reforms. The basic objectives are:
1. Involvement of WOMEN in decision making and to play leadership role while promoting decentralized renewable energy access and reap benefit from renewable energy for economic empowerment.
2. Promotion of Women’s productive use of Renewable Energy and reduce their time dedicated to unpaid care and domestic work.
3. Applying a cross-sectional approach to gender while formulating climate and energy policy and build capacity integrating gender.
4. Remove barriers to investment, create equal opportunities for women entrepreneurship, employment and access to technology.
5. Funding the implementation of gender-sensitive energy and climate solutions by influencing a country’s budget process.
WOMEN & SUSTAINABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA: PROGRESS THROUGH EMPOWERMENT
India has committed to generate at least 40% of its electricity from non-fossil sources by 2030. Currently India accounts for 4.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. India has to play an important role in achieving the goal of halting the effects of climate change by restricting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Morocco, delegates from 200 countries declared that fighting climate change was “an urgent duty”. India’s increasing focus on expanding the use of clean energy is therefore critical. It is also a step towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7, which emphasizes universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy and increasing the share of renewables in the global energy mix.
The lack of access to clean and affordable energy also has a direct link to violence against women. Women in countryside mostly go out to collect firewood in remote, isolated and difficult geographic terrains, and are therefore more vulnerable to violence. In addition, dependence on wood disrupts natural resilience and produces vulnerabilities and even accelerates climate change with trees being cut for fuel.
In Rural India, women still spend up to 5 hours a day collecting fuel for cooking, as part of their unpaid, unrecognized and unaccounted care work—the work that restricts the opportunity for education, paid employment and economic advancement. Further, the use of bio-mass fuel causes severe and long-term health problems such as respiratory diseases. The World Health Organization reports that, in India 500,000 deaths occur every year due to unclean cooking fuels.
Improving energy access would reduce the toiling labor of women’s unpaid care work and will enable them to access education and employment options and enhance their livelihoods. Clean cooking fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), biogas and other options such as solar energy can help eliminate the hazards of indoor air pollution in approximately 140 million Indian households that rely on open fires and biomass for cooking. Access to energy for women also results in positive gains for the ecosystem. For example, the electrification of rural communities can result in a 9% increase in female employment, and a staggering 23% increase in the probability of rural women working outside the home. According to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, empowering women to participate in India’s economy on an equal basis with men would add $3 trillion to the nation’s economy by 2025.
Enabling women’s access to energy also results in improvements to their social conditions. Women invest 90% of their income back into their families and their welfare, which has a positive and lasting effect for generations to come. Hence investments in women’s access to energy are very much critical.
A visionary Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs has always stressed on women empowerment and his slogan “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” is a definitive step with regard to empower women from birth itself. After 70 years of Independence, the Modi Govt is slated to develop India and bring about a NEW INDIA with Make In India concept and overhaul the economy through modernization and social change.
The government’s ambitious Ujjwala scheme spearheaded by Sri Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas, which provides LPG connections at reduced rates to women from Below Poverty Line households, is a useful example for women’s access to energy. The scheme is boosted by public investment in clean energy, incentives such as subsidies and taxes, and communities’ access to finance, awareness and education.
In the sidelines of COP22, UN Women unveiled its partnership with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to address barriers holding up women entrepreneurs, enable women’s participation and leadership in energy policies, and the productive use of sustainable energy.
With a keen interest to intensify and assessing the women’s energy needs in India Dy. Exe. Director of UN Women Mr. Yannick Glemarec met multiple Indian officials during May 2016. They held discussions on challenges in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in India and expediting the energy needs of women thereby implementing Sustainable Development Goals. The mission was sought to strengthen, plan and implement “Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy (WESE)”, which is a Joint Venture between UNEP (United Nation Environment Protection Program) and Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Govt. of India. The flagship program on “Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy” is supported by the UK’s department for international development and are being implemented in four states—Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh during 2017. Aim is to impact on 100,000 disadvantaged women, by providing better access to sustainable energy.
This program, which weaves together women’s economic empowerment and sustainable energy for all, is seen as a key means of implementation of the gender equality and women’s empowerment compact. The partnership is an example of a concrete commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment and SDG 7 on energy access that is affordable and clean.
Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan recently stressed on the importance of energy in the development of the country, and assured the students of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) that the government was committed to extend all kinds of cooperation to the institutions and researchers. Speaking at the 6th International Conference on Advances in Energy Research at IIT Bombay, Mr.Pradhan said that scientific innovations could only be beneficial to the country’s economy if the general public was able to reap the benefits of such innovations. According to him, “There is no alternative to affordable, accessible, clean, sustainable energy, and our government is committed to extend all kinds of cooperation to our institutions and researchers”.
Empowerment of women is closely linked to the country’s energy economy and this goal is driving investments in the entire gas value chain, Sri Pradhan said at a two-day international conference on ‘LPG: Catalyst for social change’, during September 2016.
“Energy economy and women’s empowerment are closely linked. LPG is a source of clean fuel to millions of poor households in the country and an effective tool for empowering women from poor households and for bringing about social change,” according to Mr. Pradhan who is taking up the mantle at national level for driving clean & green energy for all.
The Petroleum Ministry under the leadership of Mr. Pradhan is all set for a Rs.300crore Start Up Fund in the Clean Energy space. According to him, “Start-ups will be encouraged in oil, gas and bio-fuels space to develop technologies which are affordable and accessible to help oil marketing, research and development companies”. This in turn will be promoting entrepreneurship and women will be prioritized. These funding will be encouraged to monetize urban waste and rural agricultural waste in generation of biofuels.
The stage is all set for women in Solar powered gender revolution in Rural India. Many organizations are working alongside Government to empower women in becoming solar entrepreneurs to improve their livelihoods fulfilling SDG8 of the Sustainable Development Goals listed out by UN Women. The major distributed renewables are solar lighting, home solar systems, mini-grids are impacting women. These are going to revolutionize gender balance in a country that looks down upon women and sexual discrimination and assault are very frequent.
UNDP Mission in India in partnership with MNRE, GoI, has many success stories to tell.
Rajasthan’s Solar Sahelis (Solar Friends), a women group that formed an innovative social enterprise which promotes renewable energy products such as solar-powered lamps and household appliances to communities living in hard-to-reach areas.
These are just stepping stones, and though the road ahead is challenging, but the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi is set to bring about economic development along with social change is a definitive step to muster in sustainable development in Renewable Energy in sync with UN’s 2030 agenda. GREEN CLEAN NEW INDIA!!!