Bringing energy to the most remote areas of the planet and placing women at the centre is a means to ensure sustainable development and allow communities to open up to growth, innovation and cultural diversity, including gender. This is the key to the numerous projects that Enel has launched in many of the countries in which it operates, explained by Maria Cristina Papetti, Enel’s Head of Sustainability Projects and Practice Sharing, during a recent webinar promoted by the Florence School of Regulation (FSR).
The initiative is part of a series of projects launched by the European University Institute for the sixth edition of the State of the Union Conference, held in Florence from 5th to 7th May 2016. This year, the event is dedicated to the role of women in Europe and around the World.
Ensuring universal access to electricity produced in a sustainable, secure and affordable way is now considered of vital importance, not only in terms of economic and social development, but also in terms of gender equality and economic growth for women.
Without access to electricity, women and young girls have even less educational and employment opportunities, having to devote much of their time to domestic duties. The possibility to use electricity improves many aspects of women's lives in remote communities, by increasing their participation in public affairs, as well as their political and economic influence.
“It is in this direction that some of our innovation and sustainability projects, such as our partnership with the Indian NGO Barefoot College are headed,” stated Papetti. “The collaboration that has allowed us to train illiterate and semi-literate women living in isolated communities of Latin America into solar engineers. At the end of the programme, the women return to their villages and thanks to their new skills, they are able to install solar panels and train other women as well.”
In the Atacama Desert, in Chile, we promoted the creation of small businesses to ensure the necessary services for the operations of Enel Green Power’s large renewable plants. Near the solar field in Chanares, a group of women works on the maintenance of solar panels.
In Kenya, Africa, the project Powering Education aims to promote the use of solar lamps in villages to support education and replace the existing expensive and polluting kerosene lamps. The initiative aims to demonstrate how access to clean energy and culture can drive economic and social development in developing countries, while strengthening gender equality in educational systems.
The webinar on access to electricity and women's empowerment also saw the participation of Luc Severi, Project Manager, Energy Access, United Nations Foundation, and Marc Gratton, Executive Director of Electriciens sans Frontières, an organisation with which Enel has worked since last December.