Partner Spotlight: John Hopkins University (JHU)

John Hopkins University (JHU) is an American University, with a tradition of leadership in education, research, service, and health care across the globe. They have more than 400 undergraduate students studying abroad in dozens of countries each year, and more than 193,000 JHU alumni living in 175 countries.

Globally, women’s involvement in the clean energy value chain has been minimal. This can be partly attributed to the multiple challenges faced by women that impede their capacity to effectively engage in the energy sector. A major challenge at the household level in clean energy for both researchers and implementers is achieving sustained adoption and correct use of clean and improved energy technologies that reduce pollutant exposures sufficiently to achieve the sustained health and environmental benefits.

The JHU School of Public Health has created a unique multidisciplinary Centre for Global Clean Air to develop effective and sustainable solutions to solve the problem of Household Air Pollution (HAP) in low and middle-income countries. This centre brings together top researchers in public health with diverse areas of expertise, such as behavioural sciences, implementation sciences, epidemiology and various disciplines of environmental health such as exposure assessment, toxicology and climate change.

Anita Shankar, medical anthropologist and public health researcher with Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering and the Centre for Global Clean Air, during the Cookstoves Future Summit 2014 in New York, mentioned how women are bearing the brunt of the negative health effects of ‘dirty cookstoves.’ As primary cooks and managers of household energy, women are most likely exposed to harmful emissions, suffer from the drudgery and time consuming task of obtaining fuels while also having little power in the household or society to change their conditions. Historically, increased access to clean energy and technologies has been seen as a primary driver of women’s empowerment. However, Dr. Shankar said the real power comes from directly engaging women throughout the clean energy value chain, from development to distribution, as entrepreneurs and sales agents. Yet, more needs to be done to support women at this level.

With the support of USAID and Winrock International through the Sustainable Cookstove Sector project, Johns Hopkins University, along with the Visionaria Network is rolling out Empowered Entrepreneur Training Programs (EETPs), using the Empowered Entrepreneur Training Handbook curriculum, with support from the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. This unique curriculum aims to build key business, empowerment and leadership skills. It focuses on agency-based empowerment, which enhances an individual’s cognitive capacity to create and focus on her goals, and prepares her to effectively take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Together with wPOWER, JHU is considering the potential of conducting research that will identify key gaps in supporting women entrepreneurs, and demonstrate positive impacts of coaching, mentoring and empowerment training to increase business capacity, and income of women energy entrepreneurs. This research hopes to build the foundation for supporting women’s engagement in the clean energy sector to reach the scale required to significantly impact women’s personal and economic empowerment and reduce negative impacts on the environment.