In July this year, I had the pleasure of visiting Solinc East Africa Limited and I must say I was intrigued by the number of women involved in the assembly of solar panels. Trained and skilled women going about their duties, from the cutting, smoldering, stringing, assembling and testing of the products. This is the kind of spirit that needs to be encouraged, for women to thrive in the technical sectors.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a steady increase of women participating in the energy sector in Kenya and beyond. The continuous involvement of women in solving energy problems is essential in their contribution to coming up with eco-friendly energy solutions and empowering them. Women are the main users of energy and especially energy for lighting and cooking which means their involvement in the production will be a market pull that responds to the needs of the market they understand.
It is important to involve women in all aspects of energy. From planning, research, policy development, technical expertise, technology testing, production, distribution, management of energy systems and as the end users of the products.
In the recent past various awards have been developed that acknowledge and reward women who have achieved great strides in making a contribution in the energy sector are key in realizing this growth. Such recognitions increase the participation of women in providing for solutions to the energy challenges experienced worldwide.
Organizations such as Practical Action have made great strides in empowering women while working with over 700 women self help groups. Getting more women involved means making them part of economic development. Being the largest consumers of energy, it is critical that they participate at every stage in getting solutions to energy related challenges.
A few years back, USAID’s Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) program which sought to enhance the local knowledge and skills in developing countries to design, install and operate small-scale clean energy systems. With the goal of having more female trainers on board, the program worked together with Strathmore University to include more women in solar training.
In an industry that is male dominated, the program has supported more women in the energy space to build on their confidence by creating a conducive environment to horn their skills without fear or intimidation. They are able to ask questions freely and seek clarification from the lessons. As at October this year, Kenya had 22 female licensed solar technicians out of 375. This is an improvement from 2015, where there were only 5 out of 212 female licensed technicians in the country.
Women in the solar PV industry need to be supported either through mentorship or training to enhance their skills and build their capacity in renewable energy technologies.
The Kenya Climate Innovation Center also supports women entrepreneurs in clean tech to scale their businesses. Women led companies like Ukulima Tech, Strauss Energy, Wanda Organics, Kofar, Azuri Health Limited, Nawiri, Miyonga Fresh Produce and Village Industrial Power have become thriving enterprises as a result of the support they have received.
By providing equal opportunities for both men and women for growth and policy formulation in the energy sector, this can translate into an increase in the number of employment opportunities in the sector. This involvement should cut across the board, from national, international and local in all types and forms of energy.
By Mercy Mumo