Integration and Implementation of Better Gender-Sensitive Cooling Policies and Strategies

Cool Infrastructures team attended the recent Sustainable Energy for All  #ThisisCool Webinar on Cooling for All and Gender: Towards Inclusive, Sustainable Cooling Solutions on Tuesday 30th March 2021.

Here Dr Anindrya Nastiti reflects on gender sensitive cooling policies and strategies

Women inequality is not only a social problem. The accessibility of women to some infrastructures, in particular the cooling infrastructure, is very poor and unfair. So, towards SDGs point 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) and SDGs point 7 (Ensure access to modern energy that is affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern for all), we need several solutions to address this inequality problem immediately.

Despite the global effort to tackle the impact of climate change, specifically the effect of increasing temperature, there is still a lack of gender-sensitive research, policies, and strategies in delivering access to cooling infrastructure. Increasing global temperature and the lack of access to the cooling infrastructure exacerbate the poor living and working condition that women and girls faces in less developed areas, in addition to their existing experience of inadequate access to education, healthcare, employment and other services. There are three ways that lack of access to cooling infrastructure threatens the quality of life of women around the globe: health & wellbeing, poverty & household dynamics; and workplace.

First, higher temperature intensifies women health and well being vulnerability. Women are biologically having lower abilities to cope with heat, especially during pregnancy. Extreme heat and heatwaves pose risk to the fetus as the mother experience heat exhaustion. Furthermore, as women bear the responsibility of childcare and household work, the workload and the inadequate cooling infrastructure could further harm their health. The lack of refrigeration for example, result in the decrease of the women ability to provide better quality of food for the family.

Second, women are more vulnerable to heat exposure due to poverty and household dynamic. Poverty lowers the ability for household to access cooling infrastructure or opt for better design in living arrangement, in addition, the gender-imbalance within household also worsen the ability for women to voice their needs or act on those needs. Living in underserved communities may also cause the families to have to commute longer distance, and as women are more likely to take public transportation that a lot of the times has limited or no cooling system, it extends the exposure of heat for women.

Lastly, women are facing extreme heat exposure in the workplace. Women are significantly more likely to work in the informal sector such as working as street vendors, seasonal workers, or domestic workers. The informal setting of work also means there are extremely limited protection to the workplace hazard such working long hours and absence of ventilation. On the other hand, women working in the formal sector also faces challenges such as the constant use of heavy machinery in factories or prolonged heat exposure in the agriculture industry.

To this day, these challenges are difficult to deal with as there is still a shortage of data and research that are gender-specific, thus, consequently the policies and strategies that are gender-specific is also still very scarce. To ensure that we can create more equity in providing access to cooling infrastructure, there are four steps of action we can take collectively:

  1. To collect and conduct research that incorporate evaluate the experience of women: Gender-specific data and analysis will produce better quality and precise policies and strategies.
  2. To support workplace safety, community heat planning and personal comfort: Gender-transformative policies, plans and regulation will protect women as one of the most vulnerable groups to extreme heat exposure.
  3. To invest and finance gender-sensitive solution: Support in funding and financing in the gender-sensitive product and solution will boost women access to cooling infrastructure.
  4. To support attention and awareness raising on the issue: Gender-specific communication and education material could support the increase the agency and empower the women that are facing these challenges and those who are in power to change the policies and strategies in the area/region.

In the same spirit and awareness, Cool Infrastructure project is also concerned with the same issues, heat and gender. Our project sets out to fill specific gaps in evidence and data on cooling in India, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Indonesia, as well as globally. Over 36 months, we will put ‘access to cooling’ at the centre of a major new interdisciplinary and comparative study of human-infrastructure interaction in ‘the off-grid city’.