Breaking down the barriers: how energy access can power communities and create gender equality

Mother and child in a South Asian kitchen

An international conference examining inclusive energy solutions, being held at the University of Melbourne, will look at how access to energy can help reduce poverty, improve social inclusion, including balancing gender equity.

In many countries, women are at risk of poor health outcomes having to use fuels that are known to harm their health and the environment, such as kerosene.

Academics, engineers and government leaders from Asia will sit together with representatives from the Asian Development Bank to offer solutions for how market imperatives can be balanced with equity and affordability considerations, to enable modern energy access to poor and low-income communities in developing countries.

Conference co-ordinator Reihana Mohideen, Melbourne School of Engineering Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, said modern energy systems have revolutionised society and transformed our lives.

“However, we now need to meet the challenges of increased energy demand and in the context of development and look at what are the technical, social and cost-based issues facing developing nations, ” Dr Mohideen said.

“Institutional challenges to meet the demands for energy are varied. A key issue is capacity building. This includes anticipating and planning for the skills that will be needed in the coming decades, that is education and training, with a focus on adapting to technological change.”

Experts will look at energy transition pathways for the countries in the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation region. They will consider demand, supply, energy choices and their global impacts.

“This is the time to focus on low-carbon economies based on renewable energy sources and alternative small scale systems such as mini-grids,” Dr Mohideen said.

"As a committed global citizen concerned with poverty reduction and social equity, the MSE also promotes gender equity and women’s empowerment through programs that create appropriate access to energy.

"A centre based at MSE, with a focus on provision of training, new technologies and knowledge transfer in energy and infrastructure to developing countries in Asia, will analyse the implications of technology innovation for gender relations."