Managers of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects implemented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in six countries in Oceania were trained on incorporating gender dimensions into their respective projects at a workshop recently held in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.
The six-day workshop, held from 28 April to 3 May, is part of the gender mainstreaming project currently being implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community through the Pacific Energy and Gender (PEG) Network, ENERGIA International Network and IUCN through its Oceania Regional Office. This gender mainstreaming project is the first of its kind to address energy projects within the region and will serve as a case study for the PEG Network.
Participants at the workshop included energy project managers in Palau, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, officials from the Energy Planning Unit and representatives of the Department of Women’s Affairs in Tonga, a gender expert who conducted the training and representatives from SPC and IUCN.
The PEG coordinator and workshop facilitator, Koin Etuati, said, ‘gender mainstreaming has been identified as a priority at the regional level; it is therefore imperative that gender dimensions are filtered down to project levels, especially for energy projects. This workshop has provided the opportunity for energy project managers and officers to gain capacity on gender mainstreaming.’
This training ties in well with the Pacific Energy and Gender Strategic Action Plan (2009–2014) and the Regional Energy Ministers Communiqué (2009), which identified gender mainstreaming as one of the key priorities for the region.
Gender mainstreaming is defined by the Pacific Energy and Gender Network as a means to ‘incorporate in all processes and stages of policies and strategies the implications and benefits to men, women and children, whilst recognizing their differences to improve livelihood and standards of living’.
‘This workshop has been really effective and has clearly brought out the importance of incorporating gender components into any project. As professionals in the energy arena it is important that we are making good decisions and we’re addressing the needs of those we serve appropriately,’ says Salote Sauturaga of IUCN’s Oceania Regional Office.
The practical component of the training involved a field trip to one of the project sites, Mo’unga’one Island, in the Ha’apai group. The community of Mo’unga’one has recently been provided with solar home systems for lighting. The trip allowed participants to interact with the community and apply a gender analysis of the energy intervention provided for the island.
Clarinda Ziegler, a workshop participant and manager of the Energy Efficiency in Homes project in Palau, said, ‘I’m walking out of this workshop with a new lens of looking at a project by being able to see how differently it affects the beneficiaries – whether it is a man, a woman or the children’.
Though participants agreed that it is important to incorporate gender dimensions into their projects, as this encourages collaboration with other institutions and community-based organisations, they also agreed that lack of funding and negative feedback from project partners are common challenges faced by these interventions.
A similar workshop is being planned for IUCN’s renewable energy projects in Vanuatu.