Happy International Women’s Day 2022- Celebrating Women ClimateAction
“Words cannot describe her; she is a mother, a daughter, a sister, works every single day, with no pay and no holiday, yet she is considered fragile. But the truth is, she is unbreakable and indestructible; she is the epitome of resilience.” That a woman.
“If you educate a man, you educate one individual- if you educate a woman, you educate a family”. This African proverb aptly reflects the important role that women have played and continue to play in global development. And the importance of investing in them cannot be overemphasised. This reality is not just in the words of this proverb but is also evidenced by the tangible achievements of women in the real world. From the motor vehicle windscreen wiper to energy-specific inventions like batteries used to power the International Space Station, or catalysts used in developing cleaner biofuels, women have pioneered many critical inventions in today’s world. These achievements remind us that the saying “what a man can do, a woman can do better” is indeed spot on. They are a reminder that girls and women have a mind to be free and independent thinkers and pioneers of critical life solutions.
Our congregating here is happening under a cloud of the COVID-19 global emergency. Like the rest of the globe, Africa has been grounded by this extraordinary challenge for almost over two years, which has morphed into an economic emergency beyond being a health crisis. But in no place are these losses more real than in people’s pockets, dinner tables and kitchen shelves. Most importantly, the pandemic has widened the gender poverty gap. Women have been disproportionately afflicted primarily because they are overrepresented in many industries hardest hit by COVID-19, such as food service. 74% of women in Africa are engaged in the informal economy, which has been the hardest hit.
These stark realities call us to urgently answer one fundamental question: how can women rescue themselves from such socioeconomic vagaries of COVID-19? What role can climate action solutions of clean energy play to this end? Answering these starts with careful consideration of the latest 2020 UNEP emissions gap report. This analytical work proposed a solutions pathway called the “green pandemic recovery” as the optimal approach to drive low risk, climate-resilient, inclusive growth for all under the COVID-19 reality. Green pandemic recovery entails increased investment in low carbon approaches that are inclusive, applicable, and effective in unlocking income and socioeconomic opportunities while simultaneously abating dangerous emissions.
Clean energy remains a critical component of the green pandemic recovery in Africa. More practically, it is a critical solution to enabling women to unlock the benefits of the green pandemic recovery. For example, while sectors where women are over-represented such as food services, have been hit hardest by COVID-19 restrictions, decentralising clean energy solutions to enable preservation and value addition will not only ensure the preservation of perishables but also provide a means for value addition and conversion of primary product into more valuable goods that can earn more.
This approach will create income and market opportunities for other vulnerable groups like the youth who can develop some of these value-added solutions and buffer themselves socio-economically. This is the core point — clean energy can orchestrate an inclusive realisation of the green pandemic recovery in Africa if it is premised as an enabler of value-added actions in key sectors — including women-dominated sectors like the food sector. And to achieve this, we must advocate the following:
Selflessness and strategic focus: considering that women produce 80% of our food, increased incomes in agriculture through value addition will result in more money. And this is economic empowerment and enhanced gender equality. But actualising such value addition calls for applying diverse skills and talents in a complementary way. This is the hallmark of #InnovativeVolunteerism. Each one of us here today has skills, talents, intellect that we have all been blessed with. We must match these skills, talents, intellect & abilities against the value addition challenges; establish gaps in new skills partnerships that we need to solve the challenges & apply ourselves to solve them. Most importantly, we must shun selfishness and be selfless enough to gather our minds and energies and complement each other in the solutions process because no one of us working alone can go far.
The gender debate should advocate unity, not division: “a bird cannot fly with one wing”. This African proverb reminds us that none of us can succeed alone, regardless of how gifted we are. We need to collaborate; we need to work together to make headway in ensuring #climateAction solutions make the green pandemic recovery a reality for the many. The examples I have shared shows that impactful actions that decentralise clean energy to power income opportunities for women-dominated sectors are not a competition between genders or age sets but rather a complementing of each other.
“A great leader is an ordinary person with extraordinary wisdom”. Women espouse extraordinary wisdom in everything they do. “No matter how big a child is, he/she cannot deny that they were once carried on the back of a woman”. This African proverb cements the position of women as the foundation of our societies. There is no greater responsibility on this planet than this — and women all over the world have executed it with diligence. The green pandemic recovery driven through the lens of relevant clean energy for women dominated, inclusive sectors calls for similar diligence. I do not doubt that if we seek unity over division in the gender discourse, the full potential of women in orchestrating an inclusive green pandemic recovery will be realised.