Promoting gender equality in the power sector: How JCM Power is committing to the 2X Challenge and addressing gender-based violence and harassment head on

Beyond constructing and operating renewable energy projects – accepting the gender equality challenge

The development of energy and infrastructure projects in developing countries, vital for a transition to clean energy, often affects the social, economic and political climate of surrounding communities. Developers must actively engage with local communities, especially women, due to increased risks related to Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH), particularly during the construction stage of projects.

JCM Power (JCM) aims to empower women through the development, construction, and operation of high impact renewable energy projects in emerging markets, with active community engagement, job creation, and training, including prevention and response to GBVH for employees, community members, and other stakeholders of all genders.

JCM’s qualification as a 2X Challenge investment

JCM is a Canadian Independent Power Producer (IPP), dedicated to the development, construction, and operation of high impact renewable energy projects in emerging markets. JCM has made both external and internal commitments to address gender inequality and GBVH issues across its workplace and projects. 

JCM has made a gender related commitment that at least 30% of its project companies shall strive to meet the 2X-qualification criteria for women as entrepreneurs, leaders or employees within 5 years of initiation of development. It has also committed that 100% of its Project companies will have a gender equality management plan in place within 12 months of financial close. Furthermore, JCM set additional interim targets (for the end of 2020), including the adoption of a company-wide gender equality strategy which has already been completed and the development of a 2X toolkit for project companies for which the roll out is already underway.

JCM’s 2X Commitment also stipulates that for project acquisitions or other projects where JCM is not a majority owner, JCM will endeavor to influence gender equality improvements where/when possible. Not only that, JCM became a signatory to the UN Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) in 2019. 

To meet its 2X commitments, JCM developed a multi-year gender action plan in 2020 with technical assistance funding from FinDev Canada, Swedfund, IFU and FMO to execute the plan over the next three years. Furthermore, JCM instituted a corporate-level committee in the same year, to define, implement, and monitor gender equality initiatives across the company. This Inclusion, Diversity, Equality and Access (IDEA) Committee will drive accountability for the organization with respect to all gender-sensitive policies and practices.

Since making their 2X commitment, JCM have partnered with gender specialists, Value for Women (VfW), to make progress in implementing the gender action plan, including:

  • The development of gender action plans for 3 projects.

  • New or revised gender-inclusive policies for all operations.

  • The start of four initiatives to advance women in JCM and project companies.

  • The provision of multiple trainings and toolkits relating to mainstreaming gender equality in the company.

  • The hiring of a Gender Inclusion Specialist (GIS) for the development of projects in Malawi.

  • Undertaking a gender assessment at their operations in Pakistan.

“JCM Power is proud to join the 2X Challenge. We have seen first hand the benefits of supporting women and we are committed to taking bold action to strengthen their economic prosperity and improve their livelihoods. We are looking forward to continuing our efforts to foster women’s economic empowerment to affect real and lasting change.”

– Christian Wray, JCM Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder 

 “Access to clean energy plays a key role in improving women’s lives globally, yet increasing gender equality in energy and infrastructure projects presents many challenges. JCM Power’s commitment to workplace gender equality and efforts to mitigate and address GBVH risks in its projects is an example of what climate-sector companies can do to promote gender action and proactive community engagement.”

– Anne-Marie Lévesque, Director, Gender and Impact Management, FinDev Canada

Moreover, JCM has committed to empowering local women in the communities it operates in, by focusing on proactive assessment, prevention, and monitoring of GBVH risks. JCM experienced first-hand how to readily respond in the face of GBVH during the construction of its Salima solar plant in Malawi. In 2020, a GBVH allegation was brought to JCM’s attention. JCM swiftly responded with two measures to address the issue:

  • Undertook a rapid assessment of the issue, with the support of an external GBVH consultant; and

  • Recruited a permanent GIS of Malawian nationality, with extensive human rights experience, and understanding of the local culture. The GIS has been instrumental in driving the implementation of Salima’s gender action plan, which targets five key priority areas:

    • Prevention of incidents of project related GBVH in the community;

    • Provision of services for victims/survivors of GBVH;

    • Prevention of GBVH in the workplace;

    • Readiness to respond to GBVH incidents in the workplace; and

    • Research, data collection and monitoring & evaluation.

Reflecting on this experience, JCM has resolved to embed gender issues, and specifically GBVH, in the project development process. JCM is also keenly aware of the need to invest in GBVH prevention as well as response, as incidents can occur despite best efforts to avoid them. As a result, JCM has committed to including more in-depth baseline studies during the feasibility phase, to support the development of bespoke action plans to address gender related risks and opportunities, as well as providing the necessary support to survivors of GBVH at, and around, project sites. 

 “JCM has recruited a gender personnel...[they] want to curb these [gender] problems. They are planning to participate in the 16 days of activism in this community as their area. They want to sensitize the community on all gender-based activities: concerning children, marriages, workplaces etc. JCM has been doing well tackling issues on gender” – Community member, Salima project affected community

Considering the above, JCM realizes the importance of developers to invest more in understanding and managing gender related issues. Particularly during the construction phase of a project, where the risks of GBVH are at their highest and the opportunities for women’s empowerment are also the greatest. 

While it can be difficult to measure the impact of interventions like JCM’s gender action plan given the lack of baseline data on GBVH in the region and well-known sensitivities around reporting GBVH incidents, JCM’s efforts have clearly made a difference. JCM’s engagement with employees, community members and other key stakeholders supported increased GBVH incident reporting through their grievance mechanism, which indicates increased trust in the company to help survivors and their families access to remedy and referral pathways, in collaboration with local authorities. Qualitative reporting has also demonstrated the positive impact of JCM’s hiring of a GIS on individual case processing and protection of survivors from further trauma. 

JCM’s impact on the community

Through JCM’s experience with Salima, the company has developed a robust risk management system that focuses on two key areas: (1) the prevention of project related GBVH, and (2) the readiness to respond to project related incidences in the workplace and community. This system will be adopted by additional projects in JCM’s portfolio.

To maximize potential economic outcomes for women in project communities, JCM typically commits to community development programs that address key issues which align with JCM impact objectives, namely climate change, economic empowerment, women empowerment, health and sanitation, and sustainable subsistence-based livelihoods. JCM is working with its specialist consultants to apply a gender lens when developing these programs.

In addition to gender-specific outcomes, JCM’s projects also drive additional foreign investments, local job creation, and improved access to energy, ultimately contributing to more inclusive and prosperous communities.

Frank Tobé