04. April 2023Designing a gender just transition: women’s agency and role in carbon intensive regions – A Recap

This blog is in response to CINTRAN's sixth webinar in the Coal+ Regions in Transition event series. The webinar took place on 28 March 2023 and presented on “Designing a gender just transition: women’s agency and role in carbon intensive regions.” The webinar recording and presentation can be found at the end of the blog.

Coal regions have been dominated by the classic image of men as the breadwinners of the household who work in coal jobs and women who take care of the unpaid care work. While the coal phase-out means a radical change for the traditional way of working, it also brings intra-family and identity tensions to the family structure by threatening the inherent traditional masculinity within the family members’ identities. However, up until now, the design of a just transition has heavily focused on replacing jobs occupied by men. As women from these regions tend to remain silent actors, what their demands are and how they can actively shape this structural change are rarely the focus of the debate in regional parliaments. On the other hand, many examples of alliances of active female leaders have arisen all across the world in the past years, with women advocating for structural and holistic change. 

The sixth online event of our CINTRAN capacity-building programme brought together practitioners’ voices from several European coal regions to discuss various gender-specific problems related to their energy  transformations. In doing so, the experts put forward an eco-feminist perspective on the topic, diving into concrete examples from their regions.

Paula Walk (Europa-Universität Flensburg and FossilExit Group) kicked off the webinar by breaking down why the gender dimension is so essential for a successful just transition. In doing so, she introduced the research of ENTRANCE’s latest Gender Analysis report on the differential gender impacts of coal+ transitions, specifically looking at the effects in the labor market and social identity as more women had to do more (un)paid work, therefore redefining the traditional patriarchal roles of breadwinners (men) and caretakers (women). The report also taps into the agency of women within decision-making processes, questioning who are deciding where the regions are heading to since most of Regional Assemblies are composed of privileged wealthy and well-educated men.

Katarzyna Iwińska (Collegium Civitas) then continued the discussion by zoning into a case study from the Upper Silesia Region of Poland (Katowice). The case analyzes the gap of public knowledge of women and activists’s work in its energy transition driven mainly by health issues caused by pollution. One of the highlights was the support needed to change a petro masculinity culture where coal is an element strongly rooted to the Silesian culture to be proud of and how this impact on the role of women.. Katarzyna showcased three perspectives of how women see the transition and environmental concerns. 

Following Iwińska’s presentation, Óscar Vargas (Red de Iniciativas Comunitarias) provided a brief outline of his research on gender, territory, and sovereignty in just energy transitions. Based on the results of a pedagogical process with women from four indigenous, Afro and peasant communities mining regions in Colombia, he showcased how women are the most affected (through job insecurity, gender-based violence, health effects, and political violence) but also the most important agents of change of this social transformation. Women from these communities position themselves as guardians of their territory due to their ancestral values and knowledge, and this is exactly why they are the ones who know how to innovate and shift to alternative economies since they have been doing this for decades to survive

The final speaker, Eeva Kesküla (Eesti Keskkonnauuringute Keskus and Tallinn University), then showcased research from the four CINTRAN regions, the Rheinish mining area (Germany), Silesia (Poland), Western Macedonia (Greece), and Ida-Virumaa (Estonia). Key insights from this research were how the division of labour is representing a double burden for women as they need to often deal with all households chores.

The webinar closed with Franziska Stölzel (United Nations University-FLORES) facilitating an open panel with all speakers. To see the lively commentary watch the full webinar here

You can also scroll through all speaker presentations and their publications via the links below.

Presentations and further reading:

Still wanting more? Don`t miss our next webinar! Look out for all the latest info on the event series here.