By Fatima Valley 
1 / 1
Women’s empowerment lies at the core of a Just Sustainable Energy Transition
As we celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa, addressing the challenges faced by marginalized black women, especially those living in mining-affected communities is crucial. The concept of a Just Energy Transition holds immense significance, offering hope for rectifying historical injustices and stripping the chains of our colonial past.
South Africa’s history is marred by the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, inflicting deep wounds on black communities, with women bearing a disproportionate burden of systematic discrimination and oppression. Economic disparities and persistent inequalities perpetuate a cycle of poverty and limited access to resources and opportunities for marginalised women.
The transition into green energy must be recognized within this historical context and ensure that black women, especially those in mining-affected areas, are not further sidelined in pursuing a “sustainable” energy future. Equitable access to clean and affordable energy resources must be prioritised, reducing the over-reliance on fossil fuels, which has been shown to disproportionately impact marginalised mining communities negatively. Ironically, women in mining-affected communities cannot afford current supplies of energy generated from fossil fuels and yet bear the most significant threat in the climate crisis. Embracing renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, can help reduce the country’s carbon footprint. However, this must not be done at the cost of black women. A ‘green’ energy transition alone is insufficient.
The voices and experiences of black women have been historically marginalised in policy and legislative development, perpetuating gender disparities and disempowerment. It is critical to break this cycle and create opportunities for meaningful participation of women, especially those in mining-affected communities, in decision-making processes. The Just Energy Transition must ensure that policies directly address women’s challenges in mining communities, uplifting their economic status, safeguarding their land rights, and providing access to basic resources and safety.
Women in marginalised mining-affected communities endure numerous struggles, including limited access to land, water, food, economic independence, and bodily sovereignty. These challenges are deeply intertwined with their social and economic status, leaving them vulnerable to further marginalisation in the energy transition. The transition will still require the mining of critical minerals, and what will this mean for marginalised mining-affected communities?
In pursuing a Just Energy Transition, social justice must take center stage. Bridging the gap between the global north and global south requires promoting sustainable development practices rooted in social equity and inclusivity. By focusing on the unique challenges marginalised communities face, particularly women in mining-affected areas, the transition can lay the foundation for a more equitable future.
Unfortunately, there is a real risk of perpetuating existing power imbalances as the energy transition unfolds. Powerful stakeholders have traditionally dominated decision-making processes in energy policies, leaving marginalised communities, particularly black women, relegated to the sidelines and disregarded. To counter this, the Just Energy Transition must actively challenge and dismantle such imbalances by amplifying the voices of marginalised black women, indigenous women, and other disadvantaged groups and communities in the global south. A bottom-up approach involving community participation can lead to more effective and inclusive energy solutions and mitigate the impact of climate change.
Women’s empowerment lies at the core of a Just Sustainable Energy Transition.