From a research standpoint, having well-versed individuals in the labour market and experts in energy or climate ecosystems is important
Climate Asia organised a panel discussion titled "Green Jobs for Women: A Path to Climate Solutions." The panel was designed to discuss aspects of the green jobs ecosystem for women and explore how it can contribute to addressing climate change. The event brought together experts in the field - Reemaben Nanavaty, Director of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), Huda Jaffer, Director of SELCO Foundation, and Prerna Seth, Fellow at JustJobs Network. The discussion was moderated by Aiswarya Ananthapadmanabhan, AVP for Arthan's Women at Work Initiative.
Nanavaty, in her opening remarks, called women “custodians of our environment” who are “always practicing greenways.” Citing an inspirational example from her organisation, she narrated the story of Sarojben, a young entrepreneur from Gujarat who, by choosing to use biogas instead of wood for cooking, not only cut down on the amount of walking for her mother and the other women in the village community but also turned it into a lucrative source of income by selling it to farms as manure. The innovative practice saw a ripple effect by making farming more sustainable too. This example testified to women being game changers in the green field.
Building on this, Jaffer drew attention to the “scope of green jobs in energy and energy efficient environments at both supply and demand side.” She emphasised on including women as “Innovators, solution developers, service providers, and designers.” She also drew attention to the uneven gender representation on the usability side because climate-smart technology is not created from a gender-centric lens.
Prerna Seth opined the need to unpack key concepts as a first step and described green jobs as “decent jobs that contribute to preserving or protecting the environment.” She further decoded the dichotomy of green and brown jobs. Calling attention to data on the declining women force participation, from 26.8 in 2015 to 20.5 in 2021, which is mostly concentrated on informal work, she insisted that “strategies needed for green jobs for women are the same as strategies to bring women into the workforce.” She also emphasised that it was significant to question what is keeping women labour away from the workforce while being mindful of the changing environment.
Nanavaty also highlighted how women’s work often goes unrecognised. She said, “Women already working in the informal sector towards green jobs are not recognised as green jobs at all.” She further cited examples of street vendors, handloom weavers, and artisans to illustrate how R&D and financing do not go to these types of work but that these types of work are not even recognised as sustainable. She discussed that the solution lies in building capital, assets, technology, and green market while recognising traditional skills. She also emphasised the need for a decentralised local economy to build community resilience.
Jaffer explained, “Encompassing all three parameters of sustainability including, social, financial and environmental into the discussion.” Building upon the topic of a decentralised economy, she provided functional solutions like taking opportunities closer to the doorstep, reducing bottlenecks in hiring women, and making jobs more accessible without significant barriers.
Seth added to the easily implementable solutions, including safe transport, safe working spaces, and daycare. She also decoded how the conception of women in the workforce comes off as a challenge because women are viewed as beneficiaries rather than valuable agents. She emphasised the urgency of changing this at the policy level. Furthermore, she highlighted the role of social norms at the industry level, making the factory floor male-dominated, especially when women are interested in those jobs but cannot access them.
On the question of the skills gap and capacity building for women, Seth mentioned how women’s skilling programmes are directly linked to women getting into the workforce. At a systems level, it is important first to understand the required skills and then impart those skills. Moreover, she said, “In the process of addressing gaps and skills, a collaboration between government and industry is needed.”
Nanavaty emphasised that the approach to imparting skills should not be limited to a singular focus on individuals but rather encompass an entire ecosystem. This highlights the importance of a holistic approach that involves various stakeholders and recognises the interconnectedness of different components within a system. She illustrated this point by highlighting the success of green villages, where women are empowered to take charge of energy planning and budgeting at both the household and village level. Through collaboration with panchayats, these women can lead the way in implementing sustainable energy technologies at the local level, positively impacting the entire community.
Jaffer raised an essential concern about skill-building initiatives for women, pointing out that many of these programmes reinforce gender stereotypes by focusing on traditional activities such as candle making or sewing. This narrow focus can create a significant gap between women's aspirations and their skill level, hindering their ability to achieve their full potential. To address this issue, Jaffer proposed two solutions. Firstly, she suggested that the content of these initiatives must be reviewed to ensure that it is gender-inclusive and reflective of women's diverse interests and needs. Secondly, she recommended providing forward linkages, such as job opportunities, to ensure women have access to employment matching their newly acquired skills. By adopting these strategies, skill-building initiatives can empower women to reach their goals and contribute more effectively to their communities and societies.
The three experts also touched upon the role of partnership and collaboration, which are of utmost importance in addressing systemic challenges. Government stakeholders play a huge role in scalability in every aspect, including tech and finance. From a research standpoint, having well-versed individuals in the labour market and experts in energy or climate ecosystems is important. Additionally, the collaborations should come with women working on their terms.
The session ended with a Q&A where the guests addressed some important concerns of the audience, providing them with advice and solutions.