Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Gender equality involves communities having access to clean energy

Grameen Shakti - 2008 Ashden Award winner
Gender inequalities mean that women face a greater burden from inefficient or unavailable energy sources, spending far more time on subsistence activities to collect, process and use energy resources. For instance, women spend between two and nine hours a day collecting firewood according to the World Bank.

This ‘energy burden’ affects women in terms of time and physical energy. Elizabeth Cecelski, Director for Research and Advocacy, ENERGIA puts the issue starkly:

"Poverty influences and determines [the] energy choices of poor households. There is a gender bias in rural energy poverty... the main source of energy in poor rural households is not biomass - it is women's labour. The real energy crisis in rural areas is women's time."

Issues of poverty and respiratory health are also significant for global gender inequality: household smoke is strongly linked to chronic lung disease among women, whilst 70% of the 1.5 billion people living on less than a dollar a day are women (UNDP, 1995 Human Development Report).

Women, then, have the biggest potential to benefit from efficient and renewable technologies in terms of time saved, health and income.

Our award-winners are pioneering these projects in this area.

We award projects producing efficient cookstoves being sold for as little as $3 across the developing world. And we recognise enterprises that are designing cookstoves suited to local cooking practices. For instance the ‘New Lao’ stove was designed for use in Cambodia as more efficient and durable than the conventional bucket-type stoves. We have found that improved cookstoves projects can have significant health benefits through the reduction of noxious gases as well as having wider social and economic impacts.

We, also, reward organisations that are boosting women’s income and enterprise. Grameen Shakti, for instance, trains women solar technicians to install its solar home systems (SHSs) in India, whilst Prokaushali Sangsad in Bangladesh set up a cooperative, the Coastal Electrification and Women's Development Co-operative (CEWDC), of local women who chose to improve their situation through the assembly and sale of SHSs.

The development sector has been slow to recognise that the lack of access to modern energy affects women and men differently. The distinction is, in fact, staggering. Today, on International Women’s Day it is important to remind ourselves of this fact and to acknowledge that gender equality will involve, in part, bringing communities access to clean, modern energy systems.

(Image: Women technician learning to install a solar home system for Grameen Shakti in India)

No comments: