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Blog Post 8 March 2022 Updated 9 March 2022

How can we break the bias in energy access?

As part of our work co-coordinating the Efficiency for Access Coalition, we aim to enhance opportunities for women in energy access. The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is a global, multi-disciplinary competition that invites teams of university students to create affordable, high-performing off-grid appliances and enabling technologies.

Competitions like this help provide young women with the skills and confidence to pursue careers in male-dominated sectors. The Challenge helps to address gender biases by hosting webinars and panel discussions that focus on gender and social inclusion and providing support for the students with mentoring from industry experts, many of which are women.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke to three female participants in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge to find out how they are working to address gender barriers and work universal clean energy access.

Nidhi Pant

First, we meet Nidhi Pant. Nidhi is the co-founder of Science For Society (S4S) Technologies. Nidhi trained as a chemical engineer and is currently acting as a mentor to support students through the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge.

How does your work contribute positively to the lives of women?

“First, we eliminate all sorts of barriers that prevent farmers from accessing technologies or financing, so we ensure that they are present in the value chain. Our value chain is 100% operated by women. Second, we ensure that they have assured additional income that doubles their household income. In this way, they become the breadwinners of their family, develop more confidence, and have a seat at the table to be a part of decision-making.

“Lastly, the women we work with are also gaining respect within their communities through their entrepreneurship, financial independence, and participation in community decision-making. Therefore, they become community champions.”

Zainab Sajjad

Next, we spoke to Zainab Sajjad who is a student participating in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge from 2021–2022. She studies electrical engineering at the National University of Sciences & Technology in Pakistan.

Could you please tell me about your experience as a woman in engineering?

“It has been a very good experience so far in engineering as I had the passion to do this and continue in this field. Many parents prefer their daughters to become doctors rather than engineers. In my opinion, if you have a passion for something, you have to go for it.

“There was and still is a huge gap between the number of male and female students in engineering, for example in the civil engineering department here in my university, there are only two or three other girls in the department. Now, women are taking a great interest in engineering and I’m passionate about this field. I think other women should continue to work in this field, as well to work towards equality.”

Josephine Tariya Bwonya

Finally, we spoke to Josephine Tariya Bwonya, a participant in the second year of the Challenge. Josephine has recently completed her studies at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya.

What advice do you have for other women looking to explore a career in engineering and technology?

“Of course, my advice to the young ladies is that they should not feel diminished because of their gender. We can even achieve higher grades than the guys. Do not fear when choosing these subjects in high school. All subjects are not only for men, but also for everyone. Apply for these STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses. If you are a woman, you will get plenty of work opportunities. You will also be able to take part in competitions like the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge.”

You can read the full interviews with the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge participants.

Efficiency for Access and Engineers Without Borders UK are delighted to collaborate on the delivery of the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. The Challenge is funded by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

Header image: Nidhi Pant

Last updated: 9 March 2022