Women in energy sector urged to speak out on challenges

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Johannesburg - Energy Minister Ben Martins on Thursday called for an open and frank discussion on the challenges that exist for women in the energy sector.

“I would like to encourage [women] to speak up on challenges.  We have a greater responsibility to people of this country to better their lives. We need to engage frankly and openly. Where there are areas we can improve, we need to say so in order to address issues,” he said.

The minister was speaking at a roundtable hosted by the Department of Energy (DoE), held at the Central Energy Fund (CEF) offices. It was attended by women in the energy sector.

“This roundtable is not convened just because of Women’s Day. For women to be empowered it cannot be a novelty event,” said Martins on the eve of Women’s Day.

South Africa will commemorate Women’s Day on 9 August. The day commemorates the national march of women on 9 August 1956 to petition against legislation that required black Africans to carry passes.

The roundtable discussed opportunities and challenges for women in the energy sector and lessons learnt in other sectors.  

Martins said that all government departments have a responsibility to ensure that women are empowered.

“Departments have a responsibility to ensure that women … are empowered. Not as a charity, but [it is] part of the responsibility of departments,” said Martins.

Chief executive officer of Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA) Khumo Ntlha said that the picture for women involvement in the energy sector was not rosy. It was a picture of failed transformation, she said.

Women participation in the energy sector was at 6.7%.

WOESA was formed in 2002 by former Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The assumption made when the organisation was established was that the sector was ready for women participation when it wasn’t “quite” ready, said Ntlha.

WOESA’s database had around 300 companies owned by women but several have not survived due to inadequate opportunities.

Martins -- who was in July appointed as the Minister of Energy following a Cabinet reshuffle -- in the last two weeks had been receiving presentations from the department’s entities to ascertain where the successes and challenges lie.

At Thursday’s roundtable the minister said that he has picked up on “nuances of problems” facing women in the sector.

“One of the key priorities is to uplift the skills base of South Africa, to skill people so that they’re able to find jobs and create jobs for others,” said the minister, adding that education was important for the country to progress forward.

Also speaking at the roundtable, Advocate Joyce Maluleke, who is a special advisor to the Minister of Women and Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, called on women to be aware and to make use of opportunities that are now available to them.

The roundtable discussed opportunities and challenges for women in the energy sector and lessons learnt in other sectors.  

Chairperson of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), Cecilia Khuzwayo, said that further skills development was necessary to take women further.

“Mentoring can take us further as well as partnering and networking will help.”

She said the regulator can play a bigger role in ensuring women are empowered through the Liquid Fuels Charter.

The charter was developed to provide a framework for progressing the empowerment of historically disadvantaged South Africans in the liquid fuels industry.

Last year, former Energy Minister Dipuo Peters described the findings of the Liquid Fuels Charter Audit as disappointing.

In November 2010, the minister announced the commissioning of the audit of the Liquid Fuels Charter of 2000. The purpose of the audit was to achieve a comprehensive and representative assessment, as well as verify the status of compliance by charter signatories; identify bottlenecks in the implementation of the charter inventions; develop standardised assessment criteria; and monitor transformation throughout the value chain.

CEF’s Dr Phindile Masangane said that not all the energy sector was transformed and that opportunities for the youth need to be opened up.

This year’s Women’s Day main celebrations will be celebrated in Mpumalanga and will be addressed by President Jacob Zuma. – SAnews.gov.za

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