Meeting the Sustainable Development Goal to provide sustainable energy for all by 2030 and creating a gender-inclusive environment in the energy sector will require urgent action of energy practitioners, NGOs, finance institutions, and policy-makers. The ENERGIA and LCEDN workshop in Delhi on April, 3 brought together international researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to look at the key issue: ‘How can taking a gender perspective contribute to increased access to energy services’. The key discussion points and recommendations raised were summarised into a briefing note, which will be an important guiding document for the recently initiated Gender and Energy Network in India (GENI)*, and for the Research Programme Delivery Consortium (RPDC) overseeing the UK Department For International Development’s Transforming Energy Access Programme (TEA).
Highlights from ENERGIA and LCEDN workshop in Delhi, India
There was strong consensus that for women entrepreneurs to thrive in their business, in addition to financial support, they also need technical and empowerment training. Building women entrepreneurs’ technical skills is an effective strategy to ensure that they know their products and develop the know-how to fix them if needed, thus increasing their business potential growth and consumers’ confidence. Women involved in the supply chain need to be empowered in order to decide for themselves which products they would like to invest in, instead of taking whatever microfinance institutions offer.
Furthermore, it is essential to look through a gender lens in order to draw attention to barriers that impinge upon women’s participation in entrepreneurship projects and programmes, such as limited mobility, access to collateral, and safety concerns. Tackling these social barriers women face in becoming entrepreneurs is an imperative, both for women’s and communities’ empowerment. Traditional gender roles often hinder women’s economic and human advancement. Local NGOs play a big role in changing social and cultural norms and believes, as they are embedded, well known and trusted in the community. Therefore, partnerships between local NGO’s, private sectors, researchers and policy makers are crucial to scale up women centred businesses and foster energy access in an inclusive way.
To ensure strong implementation plans, there is a mounting need of empirical evidence. To move further and faster in providing sustainable energy for all, thus improving the lives of millions of people, ENERGIA is currently collecting this data in their Gender & Energy Research programme. Value for Women is working on building the evidence of how involving women in energy Small and Medium-sized Enterprises can lead to potential business and social impacts. In parallel, study after study reveals that ‘anecdotal’ evidence is also relevant for evaluating women entrepreneurship’ impacts on society. For instance, collecting data from women themselves —both positive and negative experiences— contributes to developing case studies of good practices and lessons learned as well as replicable tools and trainings.
Notably, because of the different roles that are assigned to women and men, a disproportionate number of the world’s poor are women. Therefore, government policies and programmes must also consider other determining factors in their gender sensitive approaches, such as caste and education (literacy). In India for example, there is a need to focus on improving the uptake of modern energy, in addition to increasing the access. In order to do this factors such as choice, affordability, planning, awareness raising on health issues and long term effects have to be taken into account. This was one of the conclusions of a workshop organised by the Gender and Energy in India Network (GENI) one day prior to the ENERGIA and LCEDN workshop. The GENI workshop presented research at the intersection of gender and household energy production and usage undertaken over the last three years by IRADe, TERI and MSSRF, in partnership with ENERGIA.
Finally, there is a lack of recognition and appreciation of women’s labour and it is vital to ensure that their economic contribution is recognised. As household energy managers and planners, women are not passive players in the movement for access to clean, sustainable and efficient energy services. Enhancing the participation of women as drivers of increasing energy access and promoting clean energy rather than just as end users is beneficial for the whole community. Women are critical partners as they represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential.
*The Gender and Energy Network India (GENI) is a network of organisations working on issues relating to gender and energy in India. The Network was founded by IRADe, TERI and MSSRF with support from ENERGIA and LCEDN to create a community of organisations working at the intersection of women’s empowerment and energy access. The network brings together researchers, practitioners, industries, policy makers and civil society organisations who share common interests in gender, sustainable energy access and their interactions with health, agriculture, education and livelihoods.