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International Women’s Day 2021

This year, we’re supporting International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021: a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The theme for 2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge – and it’s a theme that resonates with our mission to address the climate emergency and rise to the challenge of helping the UK reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day on 8 March, over the next few days we’ll share how we’re choosing to challenge – from celebrating women we admire to highlighting individuals who are taking action at Energy Saving Trust.

You can follow our progress on our International Women’s Day campaign page, as well as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – and remember to join the conversation on social media through #IWD2021 and #ChoosetoChallenge.


To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked four of our colleagues how they connect with this year’s #ChoosetoChallenge theme.

We also wanted to know how they are making small, everyday changes in their lives to address the climate emergency.

Here’s what they had to say.

Individual action

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we spoke to Emilie Carmichael, our head of international collaboration, about her experience of completing a major home renovation with the climate emergency in mind.

By including several energy efficiency improvements, solar PV panels and a low carbon heat pump, Emilie’s redesign has gone beyond the minimum building regulations now required as she looks ahead to complete decarbonisation by 2050.

Read her story

Credit: Shell Foundation


At Energy Saving Trust, we deliver the Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) programme – in partnership with CLASP – which aims to double the efficiency and halve the cost of a range of low energy inclusive appliances.

As part of our work on LEIA, we co-chair the Efficiency for Access secretariat, a global coalition working to promote high performing appliances that enable access to clean energy for the world’s poorest people. It is a catalyst for change, accelerating the growth of off-grid appliance markets to boost incomes, reduce carbon emissions, improve quality of life, and support sustainable development.

Here, we’ve shared two case studies from our work with LEIA and Efficiency for Access that have addressed the relationship between gender and energy access.

Case study #1: Enhancing access to renewable energy for women and girls

Energy Saving Trust manages the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund, which provides funding for research and development projects with the aim of accelerating the availability, affordability, efficiency and performance of a range of low energy inclusive appliances that are particularly suited to developing country contexts and promote social inclusion.

In October 2020, the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund awarded 20 organisations a total of £2.9 million in funding for innovative, solar-powered technology projects.

These projects will help level the playing field while addressing the climate emergency, and enhance access to renewable energy for women, girls and other vulnerable groups.

One of the recipients is Neopenda. The company’s project, ‘A wireless vital signs monitor for newborn babies’, will pilot an affordable and wireless vital signs technology in low-resource health facilities in East Africa. The neoGuard technology will monitor essential body functions of critically ill newborns, such as temperature and pulse rate. This will help increase the survival rate of newborn babies.

Neopenda aims to make this technology affordable, wireless and energy efficient, making it accessible for rural health facilities.

Malawi-based, locally owned business Wala also received funding from the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund. Wala’s project will pilot a holistic support solution that will distribute high-quality solar irrigation equipment to smallholder farmers in Malawi. It will also help the farmers access soft loans from local cooperatives for farm inputs and the solar irrigation equipment.

Wala will provide training to ensure farmers are confident in using and maintaining the irrigation system. The organisation will also teach good agricultural practice and new business skills, helping farmers increase their crop yields and increase their income.

Case study #2: Improving energy efficiency in agriculture by harnessing solar power

The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge, delivered with the support of Engineers Without Borders UK, puts students and their universities at the forefront of energy access. Part of the LEIA programme, the Challenge will help to bring modern, reliable energy services to the 800 million people who still have no access to electricity.

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we interviewed Maanasa Naga Venkatasri Rujusmruthi and Paige Elizabeth Haire, from an all-female Challenge team at London Southbank University.

They have been researching ways to improve energy efficiency in agriculture throughout low- and middle-income countries. They are focusing on a solar-powered grain mill and will design simulation studies to optimise and influence the final design.

What inspired you to take part in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge? 

We wanted to use our engineering skills to create a positive impact in society and make a difference in people’s lives.

What has been the highlight to date? 

The webinars we have attended and interacting with likeminded people in the industry.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far? 

Trying to find a sustainable solution while ensuring our design is affordable to the local community.

Admiration: eight great women

Here, we’ve chosen eight women we admire for their dedication to tackling the climate emergency – from those working in research and finance to infrastructure and policy. Click on their names below to find out more.

Last updated: 28 February 2022