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Harnessing the ‘Shakti’ in Energy Transition

Maybe the providence is divine to lay our deference at the feet of ‘Shakti’ to achieve the aim of a successful energy transition. How about you?

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Have we ever pondered that energy transition for households can be closely interlinked with the strategic thought of women empowerment? The volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world can be deceptively real, like reflections in a hall of mirrors, chasing them may obscure the reality itself. What is your thought?

Those of us who are reading this article will agree that we are a sort of privileged lot in terms of our societal standings. We nod in agreement when we read about women empowerment, we cheer for the success stories of women entrepreneurs/self-help groups we read about, however what actionable part we as individuals actually play to contribute for overall betterment of the womenfolk in our nation which is globally described as a developing, vibrant and emerging economy? Does it call for some introspection maybe? Can these generic societal inactions be then construed as volatile factors in context of women empowerment linked with energy transition?

If one relates with the day to day observations, it is evident that women in the communities at the so-called societal pyramid bottom are actually the drivers of the economic well-being there. As one travels to the remote parts of the country, women can be found seeking fuel for cooking, fodder for the cattle, carrying out agricultural, other menial labour work while also responsibly discharging the domestic duties expected of a woman in our societal norms. But can we discount existence of similar conditions for women at all societal classes albeit in different shades and hues? Maybe these are then the ingrained uncertainties which exist in our socio-economic setup in the VUCA context.

When we say inclusive energy access is a leading indicator for economic well-being of a nation, prospectively are we not interlinking it with the well-being and empowerment of our womenfolk also? Does a scope even exist for us to isolate the thought of providing cleaner fuels to households, from the women who keep the hearths warm at their homes? The answer to all these questions may address the complexities in the VUCA world of energy transition and generate the foresight to arrive at a future of carbon free/carbon-neutral energy sources. 

As we traverse the globe, we come across inspiring stories of women coming from underprivileged backgrounds making impactful changes for cleaner energy use in their surrounding communities. Reading about Happy Amos, a clean-cooking entrepreneur from Nigeria and operating in its male dominated business world makes one wonder about her inherent grit and determination. Charlot Magayi, founder of Mukuru Clean Stoves from Kenya was motivated by her urge to mitigate the negative health effects of inefficient cooking fuels and the stoves.

In our home turf, the top-echelon driven government initiative for energy transition to cleaner cooking fuels in form the ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana’ launched in 2016 undoubtedly attained the target numbers for LPG penetration in the rural households, still its sustained impact as an effective tool for women empowerment as a backdrop is open to further exploration. The scheme has attempted to cover multiple aspects of women empowerment like cutting down time spent on foraging for cooking fuels, give a smoke-free home environment for better health prospects in the family, bring in financial inclusion through mandatory banking accounts for subsidy transfers and develop supplementary schemes for gainful employment of the women in the spare time generated. Such ground level implemented action plans can be the launch pads for harnessing the women power. Recently conducted studies indicate that the belief of the household womenfolk could be the deciding swing factor in getting the mandate for shift to and sustained adoption of cleaner fuels in the rural households. 

As interesting studies consistently point towards dosing technological innovations in energy transition with social innovation, the emergence of the most action-oriented social entrepreneurs maybe lying dormant in these womenfolk of our nation. As the saying goes ‘It takes one to know one’, only a woman perhaps can then most convincingly understand the apathies of the fellow womenfolk. The diffusion of the initiatives may well be achieved on a sustained basis and with greater adoptability if we can exhort these dormant powerhouses.     

Almost half a decade back in 2015, a study by McKinsey Global Institute had outlined that major quantum of women’s unpaid work hours in household engagements were exhausted in collecting fuel and cooking. The findings illustrated that with gender parity in the labour market an estimated $28 trillion (roughly 26 percent), could possibly add up in the global annual GDP by 2025. This study concurred with an UN report of 2014 which had laid out that investment in clean cooking was potentially a key enabling factor to bring about an impactful transformation in the lives of women. It gave the foresight that gender parity in paid work burdens could be improved considerably through expanding access to clean fuels and fuel-efficient cooking equipment. With the adoption of SDGs under 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development by UN, the close association of SDG5 (for gender equality) and SDG7 (for universal and clean energy access) is a platform to create a supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurship led empowerment in the process of energy transition. 

We celebrate the ‘Navratris’ in our country which brings reminiscence that the festival is a celebration of women power reposed in Goddess Durga who was worshipped by the mighty ‘Devas’ for annihilation of the all-powerful ‘Mahishasura. It is also no surprise that Goddess Durga is invariably affiliated with ‘Shakti’, manifestation of energy source when contextually translated. Maybe the providence is divine to lay our deference at the feet of ‘Shakti’ to achieve the aim of a successful energy transition. How about you?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Prof (Dr) Manoj Joshi

Dr. Manoj Joshi is a Fellow Institution of Engineers, Professor of Strategy, Director, Centre for VUCA Studies, Amity University, with 30+ years of experience in industry & research. He has authored 100+ articles, co-authored four books “VUCA in Start-ups” “The VUCA Company”, “The VUCA Learner”, “Technology Business Incubators” and is also on the Editorial Board of several international refereed Journals.

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Deepmalya Datta

A B.Tech (ECE) and MBA with professional experience of over 14 years in the oil/gas/petroleum sector. Presently working with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, a Fortune 500 Company. Broadly as a researcher, interested in strategic studies in energy transitions due to VUCA challenges posed by depleting fossil fuel reserves and emerging alternatives.

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