TR3: Smart Villages – the gender and energy context

Whilst gender inequality is not something that can be solved purely by energy access, with the Smart Villages Initiative’s integrated vision for energy in rural villages, we can aim towards a coordinated and effective approach to gender in rural development more broadly and have a positive effect on the fight against gender inequality. This report gives an overview of how energy can make a difference to gender equality and the burdens of women. Issues addressed include time and labour saving, entrepreneurship, health, education, gender awareness, and safety from violence against women.

Two key concepts for gender equality are women’s empowerment and their bargaining power. Empowerment is a process commonly seen as concerning women’s agency: their ability to make real choices as well as having access to resources. Women’s bargaining power (influencing their role in intra-household decision-making) is determined both by an individual’s resources (that they can control) as well as women’s and men’s own perceptions of their worth.

Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is one of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. Women are often left out of household and community decision-making due to prevailing gender norms, restricting their ability to make real choices about the course of their lives. A key area where energy must hope to make an impact if it is to contribute to the fight for gender equality is in facilitating women’s empowerment and bargaining power both within and outside the home.

Of the 1.3 billion poorest people in the world 70% are women. Women’s experience of poverty, and energy poverty specifically, can differ greatly from men’s due to their different roles in the household: women take on large amounts of unpaid survival activities such as firewood collection. For any project or initiative aiming to provide energy, gender issues/factors need to be taken into account throughout project formulation and implementation, as impacts of actions may differ depending on gender. What may benefit a man may not necessarily benefit a woman due to differences in roles, positions, needs and experiences. For a project’s success to be maximised and the benefits of modern energy provision to be felt by all, a gender sensitive approach needs to be taken.

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