The National Strategy for Transformation (NST) indicates that the energy sector is among the priority sectors for country's economic development with the potential to contribute significantly to job creation and productive employment.
However, the energy sector is still among the most male dominated sectors in Rwanda, with low number of females in the workforce (5%). Women and men also benefit differently from energy services, which calls for concerted efforts to ensure equal participation and benefits for both men and women in the sector.
Private companies working in the energy sector together with stakeholders and development partners therefore met on last Wednesday in a virtual peer learning workshop to share experiences and discuss on mechanisms for accelerating gender equality in the energy sector.
"In our monitoring exercise, we found out that the private sector still lags behind in gender equality yet it is the back bone of our economy. The dialogue with private sector companies in the energy sector was thus organized to discuss on the prevailing gender gaps and how they can be addressed", said the chief gender Monitor Rose Rwabuhihi while opening the dialogue.
As shared by the participants, the low number of females studying sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects is still low which ends up in also having low participation of females in the energy sector workforce.
There is still a mind-set issue that the sector is more suitable for males than it is for females due to historical dominance of males in the sector which limits girls to pursue courses and build a career in the energy sector.
Limited number of female role models and mentors who have excelled in the sector whether as employees or as investors is also a limiting factor for females to come to the sector. Lack of specific gender responsive policies within energy companies was also pointed out as a challenge that limits females to join the sector.
Additionally, even when females are hired, they are likely to face additional challenges that may cause them to leave including time-intensive work pressure, non-friendly work environment, gender biases of coworkers, gender pay gaps, unhelpful workplace facilities, and even sexual harassment in some cases.
Due to all the above challenges, energy companies expressed the need to put in place affirmative action measures to attract and maintain females in the energy sector, and some companies shared the best practices they initiated aimed at bridging gender gaps in the sector.
The Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Energy Group, Ron Weiss said that the company (REG) has taken a decision to employ only females in Nyabarongo II Hydro Power Plant, a 43 MW power station (the biggest power plant to be constructed soon). "Females will occupy all positions right from the gate to top management and we shall provide all necessary support to ensure that the plant performs at its best" the CEO said.
In the same spirit, Rwanda Energy Group in collaboration with the Women in Rwanda Energy (WIRE) initiated an internship programme targeting female technicians. So far, 30 female interns have been deployed across REG power stations in the country and upon completion of the internship program, they will be evaluated and those that will meet REG's job requirements will be hired.
REG has also developed a gender policy and action plan to effectively guide all initiatives for promotion of gender equality in the company.
Study tours to power plants would also be a good learning experience which would motivate and inspire females to embrace the sector, said Ms. Therese Sekamana, the CEO and Founder of LED Solutions and Green Energy.
The meeting reiterated the need for energy companies to promote a gender responsive work place environment in order to attract females in the sector.
Energy companies were encouraged to partner with institutions of learning such as Universities, IPRCs, TVETs on available opportunities and emerging technologies in the sector to ensure that the curriculum is tailored to the energy sector demands.
The peer learning workshop was organized within the framework of running the project that aims at promoting gender accountability in the private sector, being implemented by the Gender Monitoring Office in partnership with the Private Sector Federation (PSF), United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and the United Nations entity for promotion of gender equality and women empowerment (UN women).