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Women’s Agency in Renewable Energy

By Yanal Abukhalaf

Reading countries have adopted renewable energy as a clean option to replace fossil fuels generated from coal and biomass that deplete and harm the environment, affecting all living organisms, including human beings. Renewable energy in Palestine is a fairly new sector, where the exploration has been within the brackets of the usage of photovoltaic cells (PVCs) in geographical locations with maximum sunlight exposure during the year. However, the exploration in Palestine only covers a fraction of the energy usage within the country, which does not serve major cities or a big portion of the population. In the long term, however, its usage is considered highly feasible and beneficial to the climate, the local and international environment, financial stability, and business sustainability.
Being an effective professional in the renewable energy sector requires obtaining an academic educational degree specialized in one of the fields within the sector, such as solar energy engineering and renewable energy systems. The cultural context in Palestine dictates the male-dominance of these sectors as fields of study and employment, where the numbers of young females taking part as students and women working professionally are considerably low. In addition, as renewable energy is a new sector not only in Palestine but also in the majority of countries, with limited professional and academic applications and routes, involvement requires obtaining an educational degree on a postgraduate level, which requires traveling to other countries. Women in Palestine are disadvantaged in this spectrum, as the option to travel for academia is not available for the majority of women, especially those considering to enter a male-dominated sector. The issue does not reside solely within the family but rather travels with women into their marriage, where research has indicated that a large number young females who aim to acquire a master’s degree are allowed to do so after marriage and with the approval of the spouse.

Women who do enter the sector of renewable energy in Palestine also face limited job opportunities and vacancies. As the sector is fairly new, and male-dominated, employers in this sector tend to overlook women who are holders of degrees and professional experience. Many hold the traditional view of women that considers them incapable of leading or being effective in challenging sectors. However, the issue has deeper roots in the power struggle between men and women in the workplace, where men in high positions consider women with high academic accomplishments and professional experience a threat to their ability to lead teams and occupy senior positions. Many employers, particularly men, feel that their job security is threatened by women, as they focus solely on themselves, neglecting the overall picture of the sector and failing to acknowledge that women’s participation could be beneficial. This mentality is relevant also in other professional aspects, such as training and workshops, where research has shown a low participation level of women in various activities that aim to enhance their knowledge and technical expertise in the renewable energy sector in Palestine. Given the recent emergence of the sector, there are not many opportunities for trainings activities, and with limited options and spaces, women tend to be overlooked as men are given preference, thus hindering women’s chances to expand their knowledge and develop their abilities.
A woman installing solar panels on a rooftop in Gaza.


However, a number of women who are facing the consequences of the traditional social structure that hampers their professional exploration have resorted to continuing their education in renewable energy through online platforms that provide certificates in various renewable energy-related fields. These women, along with a number of women who have acquired academic degrees in this sector, have started a new wave of female-led startups in Palestine that specialize in renewable energy solutions. With numerous international bodies and NGOs in Palestine conducting programs in renewable energy, support for these startups and female entrepreneurs has been provided through various competitions and hackathons that target female entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector and aim to enhance the agency of women in renewable energy. This has resulted in a number of successful female-led renewable-energy startups in Palestine, with promising prospects. However, the quest to develop further is met with political and financial struggles. The creation of prototypes, machines, and physical objects requires equipment and materials which are not available locally and require importing. Restrictions on imported goods, alongside financial liabilities, have hindered the progress of the aforementioned startups in their quest to develop and create products with technological advancement guaranteeing a change in the renewable energy sector in Palestine.
With the emergence of new professional sectors that respond to alarming issues in the world, women’s abilities, input, and needs are overlooked because they are considered of lesser value and capacities. With local and cultural restraints, norms and practices limiting the participation of women in the renewable energy sector, while eliminating the exploration of their capabilities and their roles as leading and participating professional individuals, the oppression of women in Palestine grows exponentially with the development of the world and all life aspects. Accompanied by external factors, such as funding and resource acquisition, a new layer of challenge is emerging for women who wish to enter the renewable energy sector that has been male-dominated from its beginning.

  • Yanal Abukhalaf is an environmental and sustainable architect, climate change expert, project manager, monitoring and evaluation analyst, lecturer and researcher.

1 Comment

  1. Tarhibit

    Despite the challenges, there have been a number of successful women-led renewable energy projects in Palestine. These projects have helped improve women’s livelihoods and positively contributed to the Palestinian economy. I really appreciate the insights you provided in your blog. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

    Reply

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