ENGINEERING NEWS / 30 OCTOBER 2018 - 16.04 / STAFF REPORTER
The participation of women in the energy management projects and training courses of the National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA) has revealed that the level of involvement by women in this sector is on the increase. However, the conversion to energy management expert has not yet attained the same level of inclusion and more can still be done.
According to Julie Wells, Communication Manager at the NCPC-SA, gender mainstreaming, the term describing the globally-used approach for promoting gender equality within programmes and projects, is a core value in the national programme and its energy flagship, the national IndustrialEnergy Efficiency (IEE) project.
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“As a project funded through the United Nations IndustrialDevelopment Organisation (UNIDO), the IEE project has to report to global funders on the efforts made to promote and measure gender mainstreaming,” she explains, “We need to show if there has been growth in the percentage of women participating in the IEE project and energy efficiency in the country as a whole.”
Since this objective is in line with government’s National Development Plan objectives, as a government centre, the NCPC-SA began actively working to increase the participation of women in its programmes in the past three years.
One of the initiatives is an annual Women’s Month campaign, offering free energy and resource efficiency training to women registering in August. The campaign has dramatically increased the percentage of women in the NCPC-SA trainingcourses, which are already heavily subsidised by the dti and donor funding.
According to Wells, by the end of 2014, the NCPC-SA had trained just over 1900 delegates, of which only 17 percent were women. During 2017/18 the percentage of female delegates trained was 48%, due primarily to the proactive efforts of the centre to attract female delegates. “The 2018 Women’s Month campaign attracted registrations from over 480 women nation-wide, boding well for another year of growth.”
Women who are befitting from this free training are generally small business owners. “The course is empowering me on understanding resource efficient and cleaner production and how to support my clients with compliance, promoting energy saving and helping me deliver a good report to clients,” was the feedback from Josephine Sidambe, owner of a project management consultancy in Gauteng.
At the NCPC-SA itself, women are integral to the delivery of the IEE project, which has assisted industry to save 3 800 GWH of energy, and a resulting R 3.18 billion, since 2011. Also, many of the successful energy management systemsimplemented in participating companies have been led by female engineers at the companies – most notably Airports Company South Africa and ArcellorMittal in the Western Cape.
NCPC-SA project manager Faith Mkhachwa represents South Africa on the ISO technical committee for energymanagement, ISO TC 301. She is also a mentor and committee member of the Females in Energy Efficiencychapter of the SA Energy Efficiency confederation, whose goal is to ‘establish a large representation of females playing an influential role in the Energy Management sector.’
According to Mkhachwa, international trend data shows that many women enter the engineering and energy fields and do not stay as long as their male counterparts. Through mentorship and awareness programmes, the body aims to change this for South African women.
This observation is borne out by the NCPC-SA trainingstatistics, where there is a slower trend in the participation of women at the expert-level training, than in the end-user courses. “Many women do not realise that they do have the technical expertise to implement energy management and become an expert, whilst others simply don’t have the time.” She explains that the expert level course is a six to nine month commitment, with practical implementation in an industrialplant.
But Mkhachwa adds that things are improving for gender mainstreaming in industrial energy management. “Companies have to be supportive of the candidate’s goal of becoming and expert, and whilst the numbers are still lower than we would like, we are seeing more companies hiring female energy managers, and supporting them to become IEE experts.” In 2014, only 11 percent of UNIDO-certified IEE experts were women – last year 39 percent of the 41 new experts trained were female.
Another woman leading the charge in the IEE project work is Valerie Geen, Senior Advisor and Implementation Specialist at UNIDO’s energy division. Her role includes integrating gender mainstreaming into all aspects of UNIDO’s projects in South Africa. She is adamant that the equal inclusion of women has to be a measured part of the energy mix of the future.
“We need to ensure that a gender-sensitive perspective is central to all activities, policy development, research, resource allocation, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes. Gender mainstreaming is not an objective per se, but rather a tool to assess the different implications of planned legislation, policies, programmes for women and men. It ensures that all men and women benefit equally from the outcomes.”
Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER