In Her Own Words

Profiles of women working in the Asian energy sector

Sep 3 · 5 min read
Photos by Rwaida Gharib for USAID

It should come as no surprise that the Asian energy sector has typically been a male-dominated industry. USAID is helping to make it more inclusive by providing women with scholarships, support, and technical training. Here, four women from around the region share some of their experiences, challenges, and perspectives on advancing renewable energy, and why they’re committed to working in this field. Together, they provide unique insight into the future of a rapidly growing industry.

All four women received grants from USAID’s Clean Power Asia program to attend the 2019 Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) in Manila, Philippines. They were part of a group of 40 women sponsored by USAID to participate in a week of workshops, discussions, and meetings with other international experts from across the energy sector.

Salima Jahan

Photo by Rwaida Gharib for USAID

“This is the 33rd year of my government service. I am 57. Through these years, I worked in several places, areas, sectors, and in different cities. But the place where I’m working now, I’m getting the most job satisfaction. Renewable energy is a very good sector, and a flourishing sector in my country.

“In my office…you won’t find many ladies because renewable energy and energy efficiency is an area where you find mainly engineers, and there aren’t many women engineers. When I joined, it was only me who was a woman.

“People have preconceived ideas that for renewable energy and energy efficiency, you need engineers. But now, they know that, no, you need policy makers who don’t necessarily need to be an engineer, because managers can be from any background. You need interest and eligibility to be in this area. Now, people, women are coming up in this area, but it will take some more time to come to this level.”

Zin Mie Mie Htun

Photo by Rwaida Gharib for USAID

“I studied material science and engineering in a small town. After I finished my education, I came to the capital Yangon and applied to many engineering jobs. I applied to every job when I saw the word ‘engineering.’ More than 50 percent of the rejections came because I was a woman.

Eventually, I joined Indigo Energy. We focus on commercial and industrial rooftop solar in Myanmar…We work with factories and help customize the system size they need. We invest in a system, a solar system, and sell the energy to the factory.

“I don’t have renewable energy education, but I’m working [with Indigo] because of my passion and interest in energy and business. Here they have workshops, so they explain things well: What is a microgrid system? What is a utility? What is a battery system? They explain and share their experience from different sectors, so I am learning again from the experience.”

Andrea Urquiola

Photo by Rwaida Gharib for USAID

“I’m working in the Department of Energy, that’s the Ministry of Energy in the Philippines, and I’m in the Renewable Energy Management Bureau. We implement policies and programs to support and promote the renewable energy sector.

“In our [bureau], probably 40 percent were women. Its changing a lot. Engineering here in the Philippines, women are encouraged to enroll in technical courses. We have the Philippines commission on women, so they promote gender equality in the society. Right now, at work, I am one of the focal people in the gender and development program, in the Department of Energy. We have nearly 50 percent women.

“After last year’s experience [at ACEF], I really had a wider and broader knowledge about the energy sector, especially the distribution systems and transmission. At first, I wasn’t really interested, or maybe because I hadn’t really been exposed to it, but when I started working, the more that I got in touch with the projects, the more I became curious about it, the more I wanted to learn about it.”

Lizi A Jalil

Photo by Rwaida Gharib for USAID

“[After working at JX Nippon], I left oil and gas and became an investment banker with SBI in Singapore. [Now, at Emerald Capital], we help clients prepare their investment memorandum, the structure, the investment structure, and the financial monitoring, and then we look for investors for them. We bring investors to the table.

“One time we had a managers team building event, so all the managers, all 25 of them, and I was the CFO. We went to this retreat and the chairman was there and he looked around and said ‘Oh my god, you’re the only woman here.’

“I’ve heard from the first day [at the event] when we had a networking session, I think for some for [the women], some of you, you’re still young. Those of us who have been there, we’re adults, we have adult children, we’ve been through all that. Just be yourself and you will get the confidence along the way to fight any kind of challenge.”

Promoting gender equality and female empowerment is an important component of USAID’s Asia EDGE efforts. We seek to support projects, programs and policies that intentionally strive to reduce gender inequalities and promote effective engagement of both men and women across the energy sector in Asia.

U.S. Agency for International Development

Stories of USAID’s Work from Around the World


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U.S. Agency for International Development

Stories of USAID’s Work from Around the World

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