New network aimed at women has been launched to highlight the prominent role that women play in the energy sector in South Africa.

Recognising the unique role women play within the energy sector in South Africa, Marlene van Rooyen, longstanding Editor of WALLS & ROOFS in Africa and founding Editor of 25 Degrees in Africa and WATER 360, formed and recently launched SA Women in Energy Network (SAWIEN).

This highly anticipated launch saw a dynamic range of prominent female industry players within the energy sector attend. SAWIEN is a networking organisation focused on bringing together women in the energy sector to foster entry by other women into the energy space and their advancement by capacity building, information sharing and creating a network of worthwhile contacts in the sector.

The network aims to create opportunities for women in energy by providing a platform for networking with like-minded persons and exposing them to individuals who have achieved all levels of success. It also fosters career and leadership development, as well as the potential for career advancement through the network. This initiative is sponsored by the British High Commission in Pretoria.

On the day of this exciting launch, Marlene warmly welcomed the diverse group of women to SAWIEN. “The role each of us plays as individuals in the energy landscape is emphasised through the formation of SAWIEN,” she said. “Women can and must play an active role in the planning, producing, supplying and managing of energy. There can be no sustainable energy for all unless we tap into the energy, engagement and expertise of women.”

Before introducing the first speaker of the day, Marlene excitedly shared another exciting initiative, The SA Women in Energy Award. This prestigious award celebrates extraordinary women and validates them for their hard work in advancing the energy landscape. The debut recipient for this annual award was Lisa Reynolds, Sustainability Director at Saint-Gobain and Chair of the SABS Technical Committee, who has been instrumental in strategy, direction and construction of standards for energy efficiency in South Africa.

After the hand-over of this award, Marlene went on to introduce the speakers for the day, who all are women driven by their passion for the industry sector. The speakers of the day comprised Danae Dholakia, Political Counsellor from The British High Commission in Pretoria, Lisa Reynolds, above-mentioned recipient of the SA Women in Energy Award, and Faith Mkhacwa, Project Manager, National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC-SA).

Danae discussed the United Kingdom’s role as funder for this event, and how they truly believe in both South Africa and the UK’s joint climate change, energy work and the combined goals in empowering women. It is for this reason that they are pleased to support this new and important initiative.

“Even though South Africa has a strong women-in-energy focus, there is a need for exposure of less publicised achievements and successful women,” Danae highlighted. “Women are scattered across industries within the sector – this network will bring them together under an all-inclusive umbrella.”

Marlene went on to introduce Lisa Reynolds, who has carved out a phenomenal career to date. Lisa said that in terms of this industry women can change the energy sector for the better. “People with vested interests get things done, but there have to be checks and balances,” Lisa noted.

Another inspiring leader within the energy industry who addressed the large network of women at SAWIEN was Faith Mkhacwa. She offered a brief insight into her career progression to date, and explained that her drive to succeed, regardless of the challenges, is embedded in her dedication to change the mindset that strong, educated women often have to lose their femininity in order to achieve what their male counterparts achieve.

“Women are unique in that they trust their intuition and are great relationship builders,” she said. “My advice to other women in the energy sector is to never underestimate themselves or their potential.”

This inaugural event was considered by attendees a phenomenal success, and SAWIEN will continue to hold such events to encourage further networking and promotion of women, who will carry with them the knowledge that their contribution as women plays a crucial role in the advancement of the energy sector.

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