Promoting Inclusivity: Including Women and People With Disabilities in ASEAN Energy Transition Towards Net Zero Emissions

By Bianca Natasha Prasetya, Indira Pradnyaswari and Aldilla Noor Rakhiemah 

Monday, 2 Oct 2023

Systematic Change That Values Inclusion is Required 

Energy transitions have made great progress in renewables which increased by 130% over the past decade. To meet the Net Zero Emissions (NZE) target, installed capacity of renewable energy should be massive which needs to be more than triple by 2030. However, energy transition is not only about power, it is also about enhancing the wellness of the people. In practice, social aspects in the energy transition are often forgotten. Ignoring one weakens the others. Thus, there is a need for systematic change that values inclusion and equality in society by involving everyone in the energy transition, especially the most vulnerable: women and people with disabilities. 

Roles and Barriers of Women’s Participation in Energy Transition 

Men continue to hold the majority of power in ASEAN and the rest of the world. In ASEAN, women make up only about 56% of the labor force, compared to 79% of men, whereas the participation of women is crucial to accelerating innovation and ensuring efficient problem-solving. Involving more women in the energy sector will increase awareness of women’s needs and rights and a fundamental human right. According to ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO) 7, cooking and cooling appliances will remain the largest energy consumption in the residential sector, making up about 82% of the sector’s demand in 2050. Previously viewed as having restricted skill sets and unable to make judgments about their education and employment, women are now crucial participants in the energy transition’s decision-making process, especially in giving examples on an energy-efficient lifestyle. Contributing to the energy transition, women are ardently working to increase awareness of renewable energy through a variety of community-based initiatives. Nonetheless, administrative structures often disregard how significant a job women might play in the energy business, which prompts a labor force that is underrepresented among women.  

People With Disabilities in The Energy Transition Era 

People living with a disability in ASEAN comprise an estimated 15% of the global population and represent  one of the largest minority groups in the world. However, those who have disabilities frequently experience a failure to recognize justice. Taking example in Southeast Asia, in Indonesia, the Labour Force Participation Rate for persons with disabilities was only 44%, far below the 69% of general employment or National Labour Force Participation Rate. They are seldom ever mentioned as having unique requirements or suffering particular difficulties as we move towards a more sustainable future since they are essentially unseen in environmental policy and practice. Some disabled people may have more difficulty gaining access to social, educational, and employment opportunities. It is essential to create an atmosphere that will support green jobs and provide people with disabilities with respectable employment prospects. Several roles in green jobs can be pursued by people with disabilities including market analysts for renewable energy, system engineers, or remote based jobs with few mobility requirements such as education in energy, and information technology. 

Ways to Ensure Inclusivity in Just Energy Transition in ASEAN 

Creating energy transition programs that include women is one way to ensure women’s participation in the transformation era. As an illustration, ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) has remained committed to gender equality goals, especially by including a majority of women in their team, where in 2023, 53% of ACE’s employees are women. Additionally, women are also highly involved as speakers, as revealed by data that 56% of the speakers at ACCEPT events in 2021 being women. Women can continue to play a crucial part in the ASEAN member states’ transition to a more energy-efficient system through regular training and seminars on the subject. Taking example of Southeast Asia country, in Indonesia, there is a specific women training program in energy conservation, Srikandi. The Srikandi Energy Conservation training initiated by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through the Market Transformation for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (MTRE3) project equipped women with two skills: technical knowledge regarding energy conservation and soft skills in saving energy in the work environment in the form of setting a mindset to get used to conservation conditions so they can make better use of energy. The project received appreciation from the participants thereby increasing the number of women’s participation in field of energy conservation. On the other hand, policy frameworks might be able to eliminate the gender gap in energy access programs. For instance, in Indonesia, there is a Presidential Instructions on Gender Mainstreaming (INPRES No. 9/2000), aimed at reducing the gap between Indonesian women and men in accessing and obtaining development benefits, as well as to increase participation in and control over the development process. By complying to this framework, companies will also comply in achieving SDG5 on Gender Equality. 

One of the many approaches to build a more inclusive society is to inform the public and make it easier for persons with disabilities to live a normal life. In order to prepare people with disabilities for the workforce, skills development activities which here refer to life-skills-based education, capacity-building, and training of disadvantaged groups are crucial. A great example comes from Kerjabilitas, a digital startup in Indonesia working to create accessible job opportunities for people with disabilities by allowing them to search for and apply to vacancies based on their type of disability and needs, and get career online course with helpful features such as text-to-speech output, and special icons and symbols which are easier to understand for people who have hearing impairments. Another good example is Enablecode, a Vietnamese software company which goal is to transform the Vietnamese perception of people with disabilities by employing computing experts who are not as physically able as the majority of society. In the ASEAN level, ASEAN Climate Change and Energy Project (ACCEPT II) has participated in a discussion to set up program activities related to climate change for people with disabilities organized by the ASEAN Disability Forum (ADF) such as a study to analyze where the areas (provincial level) in southeast Asia with the most impacted people with disabilities due to climate change. As a follow up, ADF will move forward and share this information with other ADF focal points in 10 ASEAN Member States and together will prioritize and strategize to implement the proposed program activities.  At the least, energy transition policies must take into account  the needs of people with disabilities, who are at risk of being marginalized by policies that force households to reduce consumption or increase investment. This is also guided by the ILO’s mandate to advance social justice and promote decent work, and informed by the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, the ILO reaffirms that persons with disabilities have the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, including labour rights, as all persons. 


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The views, opinions, and information expressed in this article were compiled from sources believed to be reliable for information and sharing purposes only, and are solely those of the writer/s. They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) or the ASEAN Member States. Any use of this article’s content should be by ACE’s permission.

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