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Empowering women key to combating climate change, expert says

Zayed prize finalists have made positive changes in the lives of women

Image Credit: Courtesy: Organiser
Dr Nawal Al Hosani speaking about women and sustainability at an event held on the sidelines of the COP21 climate change summit in Paris last December 7.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Empowering women is the best way to combat global warming, an expert has said.

“Not only do women better understand the harmful effects of climate change especially on the lives of those in rural and impoverished areas, but empowered women are one of the most effective responses to this phenomenon,” Dr Nawal Al Hosani, Director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP), Director of Sustainability at Masdar, told Gulf News.

In developing countries and much of the Third World, women feel the effects of climate change more significantly than their male counterparts, Al Hosani said. There women must also gather food and water — but because agriculture has been gravely affected by climate change, these resources are becoming scarce and difficult to attain, she said.

The health consequences of power shortage, and subsequent reliance on other sources of energy can be damaging, especially for women. This is because cooking fuels like kerosene produces fumes that cause chronic respiratory illnesses, she said.

This was one of the conclusions reached by the United Nations Environment Programme report in 2011, Al Hosani said.

Experts also feel that there is a need for more women in the sustainability sector.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2015, 41 per cent of tertiary-level students and graduates in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies are women and so are 60 per cent of PhD graduates.

“In the UAE, the enrolment of women in fields pertaining to renewable energy is relatively high. However, in many other cases, women often step away from engineering into more administrative roles or leave the field altogether to stay at home and take care of their families,” Dr. Al Hosani had said earlier.

The ZFEP is aiming to bring about this change. The Zayed prize will be held alongside the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week from January 16-23.

Two finalists of the eighth Zayed Future Energy Prize awards, which will be held on January 18, are Nigerian Green Energy and Biofuels company and Kopernik of Indonesia.

Green Energy and Biofuels produces ethanol-based cooking fuel from biomass waste products and has provided sources of income for women in Africa thereby creating positive health and environmental benefits for users.

Green Energy and Biofuels currently includes 25,000 women entrepreneurs across 1,700 communities.

Meanwhile, Kopernik a non-for-profit organisation which provides green technology solutions to people in remote areas by relying on innovative product distribution, development and finance.

Since its launch in 2010, Kopernik has reached 24 countries, helping 700 women to receive training on business development and maintenance of its technologies.

Ewa Wojkowska, Co-founder and COO, Kopernik, said: “In Indonesia, we are scaling up our award-winning Wonder Women initiative that helps to empower women to become micro-social entrepreneurs by selling clean energy products in their communities. Winning the Zayed Future Energy Prize would create a positive impact by affording us prestige and credibility to promote our work further, access to a new network of like-minded individuals and organisations for collaboration and additional financial resources to scale up our impact.”