More than 250 engineers and energy-sector professionals represented their countries at the first regional conference of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER)--a forum to promote and diversify female practitioners’ opportunities in the power and energy sector. They included representatives from 60 participating institutions from local and international power utilities, energy sector organizations, and multilateral agencies.
Pravin Raj Aryal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation in Nepal, opened the two-day conference on February 20. “Energy access and infrastructure development are critical elements in South Asia’s regional development strategy. However, women’s opportunities to contribute to the energy sector are limited, with a visible lack of gender diversity in technical and senior management positions,” he said.
He added that initiatives such as WePOWER would help nurture partnerships among women professionals, leading to an increase in their engagement across the sector. The conference was organized by the World Bank, with support from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian AID and Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
It drew senior and junior professionals and engineering students from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Besides panel discussions on the viability of jobs, skills, and opportunities in the sector, the conference also had a special interactive session for secondary school girl students to encourage them to find their footing in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
“WePOWER aims to support greater participation of women in energy projects and utilities, and promote normative change regarding women in STEM education,” said Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. “This initiative also fits the broader work of the World Bank, aimed at removing constraints for more and better jobs as part of our Gender Strategy.”
Caren Grown, World Bank Senior Director of the Gender Group, added: “Women’s low participation in the sector is a constraint to gender equality and equality of opportunities. It is imperative for men and women to have access to good quality jobs, and events like WePOWER reinforce this need.”
Peter Budd, Australian Ambassador to Nepal, opened the second day of the WePOWER conference and said, “Forums such as WePOWER are and will continue to be an important mechanism for deliberation on low carbon gender integrated pathways that meet the growth needs of the countries in the region.”