Integration of Gender Issues

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Access to better energy services can improve women’s social, economic and political status — reducing the time and effort involved in household chores, providing better health and educational conditions, expanding income-generating opportunities, and easing their participation in public affairs. At the same time, greater sensitivity to gender issues increases the effectiveness of energy programmes and policies, as well as other types of development activities that involve energy use, by ensuring that the needs and concerns of both men and women are taken into account. Availability of kerosene or liquefied petroleum gas, improved stoves, electricity, and mechanical power significantly improves the quality of life for women in rural areas and relieves them of much of the difficult, unpaid work currently required to care for their families.[1]

Decision-makers often view their energy related choices as gender neutral, however men and women are affected differently by energy policies wherever their home, work and community roles differ. Economic development policies thought to be gender blind may actually reinforce gender inequalities. For example, small amounts of electricity at home in the evening hours may improve the quality of life for some members of the family, allowing them to read or watch television, while for women, it may simply extend the burdens of the working day into the evening hours when they would otherwise be able to rest. Attention to these sorts of differing interests is needed in order to achieve effective and equitable distribution of energy and development services. Using a ‘gender mainstreaming’ approach ensures that the different impacts of an action or policy for men and women are evaluated so that gender inequality is not perpetuated.[1]

In What Ways Are Women in Developing Countries Particularly Affected by Lack of Energy Services?

  • They grow food, maintain households, raise children, and operate small-scale enterprises without mechanical or electrical equipment or modern fuels.
  • They have to find, collect and carry water and traditional fuels such as wood, charcoal, and agricultural wastes.
  • They suffer health problems from hauling heavy loads, working over smoky fires, and giving birth without adequate health care facilities.
  • They lose out on education and employment opportunities due to their household burdens.

Women in rural areas rarely have access to motor vehicles, or even carts or draft animals, to help them transport their loads. In addition to the time and physical exertion involved in gathering fuel, women must worry about falls, threats of assault and snake bites during fuel gathering.

Indoor air pollution from burning coal, wood and traditional biomass fuels is a significant source of particulate pollution in rural homes and ‘informal’ urban settlements/slum areas. Smoke from traditional cooking and heating methods contains dangerous amounts of toxic substances that contribute to respiratory disease, cancer and eye problems. Every year more than 1.6 million, mainly women and children, die from illnesses linked to indoor air pollution.

-> More Information on Energia: Fact Sheet on Energy, Gender and Sustainable Development

-> For more information on gender and energy visit the website of the UNDP

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Options for Integrating Gender Issues into Energy Projects

Gender is relevant to both demand and supply in the energy sector. While the State-led, formal electricity grid offers greater access, more usage flexibility and may therefore be seen as relatively gender neutral, the informal, decentralised and alternative energy supply options call for great care in achieving a gender sensitive match between demand and supply.

Gender impacts of decentralised, renewable energy projects can be addressed at two levels: within the project ‘by doing it better’; and by ‘broadening and deepening’ beneficiary impact through the socio-economic linkages brought about by such projects. The latter involves giving greater attention to women's income generating activities (both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries).

To maximise beneficial impact, energy projects (particularly those that promote renewable, decentralised supplies) need to take gender-differentiated needs into account. Gender is also significant for the efficacy of operation and maintenance (O&M) and for the sustainability of the energy supply - which are both determined by who is involved and trained. Lastly, energy, because of its links with development, necessitates an analysis of gender within a wider market context.

The wider analysis of gender brings out two points. First, to achieve a more gender balanced impact, sustainable energy projects must expand their focus from project specific benefits to broader multiplier effects which arise from productive activities that generate income. This can also bridge the “exclusion gap” between beneficiary and non-beneficiary and allow greater numbers to benefit. Secondly, possibly to a lesser extent, this implies that any saving resulting from the switch to an appropriate renewable energy alternative (e.g. income that used to be spent on other energy sources such as kerosene oil) should be re-oriented toward productive use. This article argues for a wider perspective on impacts, expanding from project level impact to a perspective emphasising multi-disciplinary, sectoral and institutional links in renewable energy projects. Such a perspective will also bring into focus women's involvement in informal sector activities that provide energy services for productive (income generating) end use activities. Such projects can achieve greater positive impacts on gender relationships by moving from a supply focus towards one of stimulating greater productive use of energy (as against only consumptive use such as lighting).

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Country-wise Experience with Gender Issues

Hydro Projects in Sri Lanka

Gender analyses of project level impacts of village micro-hydro schemes in Sri Lanka indicates that renewable technologies are not gender neutral and that benefits are reaped differently by gender according to their social roles and responsibilities. Further, the impacts of such projects on all beneficiaries, but particularly on women, are limited by constraints in end use. Given this scenario, what is the way forward?

Recommendations for a “doing it better” approach, that is improvements that stay within the project confines (Dhanapala, 1995), include:

  • Gender balance in Electricity Consumer Society(ECS) participation: Greater efforts should be made to integrate women in ECS, by making the latter family-centred organisations that meet on holidays and at times convenient for all. Developing ECS institutional guidelines and procedures, raising awareness regarding gender balance, and by making membership open to all family members over 16, rather than to one designated family representative only, would all improve the situation.
  • De-mystifying micro-hydro technology, through household wide training including safety practices, and through using women in demonstration and training activities.
  • Knowledge and use of gender disaggregated information throughout the project cycle. Development facilitators should be trained on gender awareness, on indicators for monitoring purposes, and should be equipped with skills to integrate gender in both the implementation and operational stages of projects. Evaluation visits to both connected and unconnected households should target both genders.

Beyond this, the impact, and especially the gender balance of the impact, of renewable energy projects such as village micro-hydro schemes can be deepened and broadened by pushing impacts beyond the limits of project-bound benefits. This requires more linkages between energy services and economic activities, particularly those of women. End uses should be oriented towards existing skills and markets, and in particular include informal sector activities undertaken by women (e.g. sewing, beedi wrapping, incense stick making, cinnamon peeling) Currently, the main benefit of the energy supply is usually that existing activities are continued after dark, leading to greater outputs. Greater benefits would arise if new mechanised economic activities were stimulated, such as electric sewing, rice milling, carpentry or other workshops. In order to achieve more significant support, energy supplying or facilitating agencies should link with micro-credit and business development organisations, which promote activities at the community level.

This emphasis on both improving projects and expanding the extent of their impacts will allow for increased participation by women in projects and their benefits. Benefits will include increased incomes and socio-economic empowerment. Projects will enable greater access to, and awareness of, energy supply options. Given such increase in quantifiable benefits, such projects would in turn become more likely to be attractive bankable investments, paving the way for a greater access by communities to localised energy supply options.

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Gender and Hydro Study in Ethiopia

GIZ has conducted a study in 2010 to understand the gender perspective of hydro power electrification.

The Study is available here.

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Rural Electrification Project in LAO PDR

The rural electrification project in Lao in its mid-term assessment found that almost 20-40% of rural households were not connected due to high up-front connection cost. Almost half of these households included female headed households. Therefore, the program designed gender sensitive policies with targeted subsidies for increasing the connection rate. This resulted in an increase in connection rate for female headed households from 67% to 95%.[2]

Indicators Gender Equality & Micro Hydro Power / Electrification

Promotion of gender equality is very complex and it is difficult to establish a straightaway linkage of electrification to gender equality. Electrification is rather one piece of a puzzle, one (but vital) supporter for vehicles that could otherwise not be used like ICTs, or where electrification can be a ‘booster’ like income-generation activities and education.

Measuring the achievement of gender equality is a challenge as this indicates that empowerment is taking place and equity aspects are achieved, and ‘systems and structures’ are transforming.

In the following, preliminary indicators will be proposed along the framework that was also used throughout a research (in Pakistan on behalf of AKRSP): empowerment, gender equity and equality.

The (quantitative and qualitative) indicators are not in specific order or arrangement; the list does not have the claim to be exhaustive but aims to provide a basis for further discussion as it is deemed a lot easier to work off if there is already something to discuss. The indicators are not yet ‘smart’!

Not all proposed indicators can directly be attributed to electrification (‘it’s one piece of the puzzle’). Indicators that are attributed to electrification are highlighted in green fond in the following; the indicators in black fond however ‘benefit’ from electrification.

It is a matter of course that besides segregation in ‘sex’, measurement of the indicators should consider the impacts for different women and men (e.g. age, marital status, education, status of spouse, profession, class) as they show differences that impact on results. A married woman, spouse of the brother/son of the head of household will benefit differently as compared to the mother-in-law, the wife of the head or the young school girl. Young men will also benefit differently than the father who heads the household or the uncle, who trades the agricultural goods.

Measuring Framework
Material Empowerment
  • New, or expanded, successful businesses, with ‘ownership’ (of machines, administration of income, use of income)
  • Number of new jobs created by these businesses
  • Total No. of employed women and men (e.g. from SESNAC village profiles)
  • No of migrants / increased work opportunities in the village (reasons)
  • Use of extra income by women and men (e.g. education, school fees)
  • Diversified income and greater productivity for businesses by sex
  • Diversified food production (due to saved time, influenced by TV cooking shows)
  • Use of saved time (for other activities, income generation, resting, reduced stress?)
  • No of market visits by women
  • No of institutions providing services to entrepreneurs
  • No of women who enquire for funds / No of application to WO/VO (incl. purpose)
    • No applicants who get loans, for business, repay the loans, by sex.
    • Interest rate, repayment rate for loans, savings of VOs/WOs
  • Changes in the well-being of households - housing, clothing, food, health, school etc. (ability to cover family needs)
  • ‘Pocket money’ / access to cash by sex

Perceptional Empowerment
  • Increased self-esteem of women / abilities to run businesses / economic management / make decision / visit markets
  • Attitudes of other family members to ability of women for economic management, decision-making
  • Status of income-earning women in the family (according to own perceptions, perceptions of other family members)
  • Status of educated women in the family (according to own perceptions, perceptions of other family members)
  • No of women with leadership skills / capacities
  • Satisfaction with life / well-being
  • Young men’s awareness for women’s empowerment and community empowerment
  • Harmony in the families increasing (e.g. due to nice, clean food; neatly washed and ironed clothes)
  • Learning effects from TV (language, cooking, tailoring etc.)
  • No of conflicts caused by access to- and control of electrical gadgets

Relational / social empowerment
  • Valuation of women’s income earning
  • Valuation of women’s (unpaid) work in the family
  • Value of girls and boys education
  • Brothers support their sisters to access educational information
  • No of women in village committees, ratio women and men in committees
  • Influence on decision-making in committees
  • Strength of the WO, No of applications for projects, No of collaborations with other committees
  • Women’s and men’s attitude towards domestic activities is positive (as ironing, boiling tea, cooking)
  • Work tasks of boys scouts, girls scouts
  • No opportunity costs for TV, ICT
  • Definition ‘good’ dramas, TV programmes / who defines?
  • Learning effects from TV (copying of ‘good’ behavior etc.)
  • Degree to give permissions in the family (e.g. for movement, shopping) by sex, age, marital status, education, status of spouse

Gender Equity
  • Women’s workload is reduced (objectively and subjectively)
  • Women and men share workload in some areas of the domestic sphere (e.g. ironing, boiling tea)
  • Women save time (objectively and subjectively)
  • Use of saved time (for other activities, income generation, resting, reduced stress?)
  • Diversification of daily activities / replacement of some daily activities by others (e.g. washing machine saves time for cleaning)
  • Decision-making for activities (e.g. who decides that more clothes have to be ironed, take care for cleanliness)
  • No of mobiles in the family, ownership by sex
  • Type of electrical gadgets in the family (affordability) and frequency of use (e.g. electrical oven for Phitti)
  • Utilization of electrical gadgets by sex / frequency (e.g. to iron, wash, boil tea by men)
  • Purpose to iron / wash / cook by sex (for whom do boys iron…, why are they doing it)
  • Adoption of electrical gadgets (such as electric oven for Phitti) by sex
  • Control of electricity use in the household (e.g. men decide to cut down use)
  • Women and men jointly administrate income, spending, saving
  • Day time to watch TV by sex / availability of free time to watch TV by sex
  • Activities while watching TV
  • Interest of women / men for certain TV content
  • Control over TV programme
  • Control over computer / internet, mobile
  • Market access for women
  • ‘Purposes’ that allow mobility in the village by sex (e.g. girls can go to school, for prayers; boys meet to chat)

Gender Equality
  • ‘Natural’ responsibilities are fulfilled ‘voluntarily’ by women and men (e.g. women chose to iron and/or wash when, what, how often according to their own schedule – this will though meet the perception of being a ‘good’ woman in the eyes of the community)
  • Women and men have choices to move (also without apparent purpose, or to sell/buy products produced with electricity)
  • Free time activities by sex, age, marital status
  • Behavioral changes opening up more opportunities of choices to women and men (e.g. from TV, school influence; supporting girl’s education to socialize self-confident young women)

Other aspects
  • Content of TV programmes / available programmes (educational, dramas, sports etc.)
  • Language of TV programmes
  • Food cooked with electrical appliances is considered as tasty (by men, women) as the food cooked on conventional appliances (wood)
  • Available computer programmes (text, games etc.), movies (educational, dramas, sports etc.)
  • Language of computer programmes, movies

Electrification projects should also clearly define their ‘gender equality objectives’, i.e. it should not simply be stated ‘the project aim to contribute/promote’ but goals should be set for instance: to promote material/economic empowerment of women and men via income-generating activities, training, seed funding; or to promote gender equity by ensuring equitable access to internet and computer facilities or to support political empowerment by active participation of women and men in committees, including decision-making etc.

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Further Information

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  • Dhanapala, Kiran (1995) Gender Related Impact of Micro Hydro Technology at the village level, ITDG - Sri Lanka Tampoe
  • Moira (1997) Project Completion Report for the Village Hydro Project, draft version
  • Wijayatunga, Priyantha (1998) Prospects of new and renewable energy sources in Sri Lanka; pricing and other issues, Paper presented at LIFE Seminar, Colombo, Sri Lanka, held January 1998
  • Dhanapala, P. 1998. Beyond project boundaries. Improving gender impacts of Village Micro-Hydro schemes. ENERGIA News Issue 2.3, August 1998. URL: ENERGIA News
  1. 1.0 1.1 Energia: Fact Sheet on Energy, Gender and Sustainable Development (
  2. The World Bank, “Integrating Gender Considerations into Energy,” 2013.
  3. Chen, Marty/ Mahmud, Simeen 1995: Assess-ing change in women’s lives: a conceptual framework. Working Paper no. 2.BRAC-ICDDR, B Joint research project, Matlab, India