Global Resources

Where energy is women's business: national and regional reports from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific

Author: G. Karlsson (ed)
Publisher: ENERGIA: International Network on Gender & Sustainable Energy
Publication Date: Jan 2007

In the introduction to this publication, ENERGIA policy advisor and editor of this pubication Gail Karlsson writes, “In many developing countries, especially in the poorest areas, most energy currently comes from traditional biomass fuels such as wood, charcoal and agricultural wastes - and collection and managing these fuels is strictly ‘women’s business’.” She calls on national energy and development policy-makers to acknowledge the links between women’s work, national economics and energy; as well as make more gender-focused investments and initiatives, with greater and more diverse involvement of women. In preparation for the 14th and 15th sessions of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), ENERGIA commissioned a number of regional reports, as well as national consultations in countries where there are significant links between biomass dependency, women’s roles as energy suppliers, and poverty (especially in rural areas). Among other contents, this publication includes four regional reports: Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC), and the Pacific. Consultations were conducted in 19 countries in Africa (Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Asia (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam) with representatives from government ministries, academic and research institutes, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), women’s groups and energy experts. Among the common themes from the national papers contained in this publication, as described in the introduction, are the following:

A. Dependence on biomass fuels is both an indicator of extreme poverty, and an obstacle to greater prosperity.
B. One of the most important ways of reducing poverty and promoting national development is by involving women in productive economic activity rather than wasting so much of their time and effort securing basic fuels for survival.
C. Investments are needed in improved fuels and equipment – as much as access to electricity.
D. It is time to accept that women can, and already do, play an important role in the energy sector, and to engage them at a higher level in the dissemination of new energy technologies and more effective management of natural resources.

Finally, the editor recommends a gender-balanced energy paradigm. The Indian national paper is pointed out as an example of the paradigm shift required, which involves governments changing their thinking from a ‘subsidy mindset’ regarding women, and adopt one that promotes the development of new enterprises for women in the energy sector. Annexed documents: Priorities for Action for Women as a Major Group at CSD 15; Key Statements on Gender and Energy at CSD 14; International Affirmations on Gender, Sustainable Development and Energy; and Readings and Resources on Gender and Energy Issues.