In Africa and Asia , the regions where ENERGIA has traditionally been working , we are cooperating with local and regional stakeholders , including civil society organisations and regulatory bodies , to foster inclusive consultation mechanisms , mainstream gender into renewable energy projects , develop enabling policy environments , leverage the potential of women as change agents and support women ’ s entrepreneurship in the clean energy space .
Our experience shows that local communities have the potential to benefit dramatically from a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energies that is conceived and rolled out in an inclusive and participatory manner .
Especially rural areas , which to date are still vastly deprived of electricity access , can enjoy the ‘ luxury ’ of access to energy via simple and affordable technologies . Via their networks and groups , women keep proving to be most instrumental in facilitating the access of last mile households and communities to clean energy solutions .
This in turn can revitalize local economies by creating new value chains and generating new jobs ( for both women and men ), while minimizing labour migration , enhancing access to education and improving health and safety .
Girls and women are amongst those who have the highest stakes . Access to distributed renewable energy releases them from the task of collecting biomass and they can invest the newly saved time in income-generating activities , study or leisure .
Having access to electricity in the community generally improves public lighting and safety , which furthermore enhances women ’ s mobility . The ensuing virtuous cycle benefits households and communities at large , with proven positive effects on the provision of healthcare and the wellbeing of children , and ultimately strengthening resilience .
In our experience , for the energy transition to be truly just and sustainable , it is essential that representatives of all different community groups and members are effectively and meaningfully consulted and engaged at all stages of the design and development of an energy project .
Social and environmental audits are important tools to utilise prior to the implementation of a new plan .
Likewise , collection of gender-disaggregated data and a clear monitoring plan inclusive of genderrelated targets and indicators ensure that the benefits for and impact on men and women are analysed throughout the process , so that mitigation measures and remedies can be timely adopted .
It is equally critical that a conducive policyframework is in place , with fair representation , due diligence , compliance mechanisms and procedures .
Transparency and accountability improve governance and local ownership , which are key towards long-term resilience and contribute to peace and stability .
Political frameworks should be strongly aligned to the major international agreements , including on human rights , the SDGs and the principles of the Paris Agreement .
At the macro level , this also requires decisionmakers and investors to adhere to coherent policy and financial decisions where renewable energy projects are to be supported both domestically and overseas , while plans and strategies are to be developed in order to phase out fossil fuel projects and investments .
From environmental degradation to worsening climate change , from migrations and social conflicts to increasing inequalities and health hazards , the journey of fossil fuel-based economies has clearly brought under the spotlight the urgent need for a more respectful , sustainable , resilient , equitable and safe paradigm .
Tapping into the potential of cleaner energies by embedding social justice and equality is becoming less of an option and more of a necessity .
There is no better time for embarking on this new journey than now , when the world is devising strategies to “ build forward better ” and strengthen resilience after the global COVID-19 pandemic .
Silvia Sartori is Women ’ s Economic Empowerment Program Manager at ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy .