Patricie Uwase, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure has said that Rwanda's ambitious goal of achieving universal access to electricity in 2024 will require the participation of all actors, and women will be an important part.
She said this during an event where women engineers, entrepreneurs and workers in the energy sector launched a fresh drive to lure their fellow women, especially the younger generation, into careers in the energy sector.
Dubbed " Women In Energy Network" (WIRE), it is made up of women working both in the public and the private energy sector, coming together to mainly carry out sensitizations and career guidance to fellow women on the opportunities and possibilities in the energy sector.
Uwase reminded them of the speed at which the country wants to achieve 100% electricity coverage as well as their role towards it,
"We want to achieve universal access very quickly. It's an ambitious goal, we all know. And we know that we cannot get there without the participation of every player and this includes the fifty percent part of population the women," she said.
According to women in the energy sector, there are visible gender gaps at their workplaces, as well as in the energy sector as a whole, caused in part by negative mindsets that discourage women doing work related to the energy sector.
Dina Habahimana, a local resident of Gikondo, is part of a team that fixes cashpower meters when they get problems.
In the metering department where she is employed, they are only two females. The rest of the team is 12 men.
In an interview with The New Times, she said that the few numbers of women is rooted in the history of the country where many girls did not want to go for such courses, a narrative that she says is currently changing, and will change more if young women are sensitized,
"Young women should be sensitised that working in the energy sector is possible. Some fear that it is not for them, others believe false things that it is only meant for men. These things should be dealt with," she said.
Francine Munyaneza, founder of Munyax Eco, a solar energy company that sells water heaters, among other products said that there are huge challenges for women in energy especially in form of skills,
"It's very challenging to find competent skilled people in solar energy. And it's worse when you want to find women," she said.
"As a woman I am sensitive to the challenges that we are facing because as a woman I know what I have passed through in my professional career. So, when I started my company the idea was to promote women. But I faced a challenge of not easily finding skilled women to hire. So, I chose to hire those that didn't have skills and I trained them. This costs more money. It is a sacrifice," she said.
As an entrepreneur she sees the WIRE network as a way of not only reaching out to young engineers and technicians, but also young girls to encourage them about a career in the energy sector.
"I am already doing it in my company but with limited means. But if we can do it on a large scale under WIRE, this is better," she said.
Munyaneza employs 14 staff in her company, of which 50 percent are women.
The network will be supported by Power Africa, an American Presidential Initiative that aims at supporting economic growth and development by increasing access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power in Africa.
Claire Nelson, the head of the Power Africa Initiative said that by creating a network, women could come together to work on such issues as improving gender balance in the sector, as well as women's understanding of energy,
"This will among others help women to make energy choices for their homes and their households," she said.
"It will address cultural norms that suggest that women don't have to go into the energy sector, or that women can't do energy sector jobs".