In the light of what we cannot see: Exploring the interconnections between gender and electricity access

Tanja Winther, Kirsten Ulsrud, Margaret Matinga, Mini Govindan, Bigsna Gill, Anjali Saini, Deborshi Brahmachari, Debajit Palit, Rashmi Murali, Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 60, February 2020, 101334

In this paper we quantify gendered decision-making patterns regarding electricity access, light and appliances in selected rural contexts in Mahadevsthan (Nepal), Homa Bay (Kenya) and Chhattisgarh (India). In the literature, decision-making in electricity has primarily been studied through case studies and qualitative methods. By quantifying some of the gendered patterns in this field, we first seek to document and compare the situation in selected contexts and then to refine the understanding of the nexus between gender and electricity access. The research design was informed by the team's previous qualitative work, and we present results from a household survey conducted in 2016 and 2017. We anchor the analysis in a micro-political approach to energy, and we draw on empowerment and domestication frameworks for analyzing tenets of energy justice. The findings show that women generally had less power than men to make decisions about electricity and appliances and that women's lack of rights in electricity was mirrored in their subordinated position in the socio-material contexts. Comparing groups of women, women in Mahadevsthan, including those who were living without a man in the household, were most likely to have electricity access and acquire appliances of their choosing. Widows in Homa Bay were the least likely to have electricity access. By drawing on the wider literature, we discuss the results in terms of how women's agency and access to electricity and appliances of their choosing in the Global South may be improved.

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Rice Cookers, Social Media, and Unruly Women: Disentangling Electricity's Gendered Implications in Rural Nepal

Margaret N. Matinga, Bigsna Gill and Tanja Winther, Front. Energy Res., 24 January 2019 |

Rice cookers, social media, and television sets are commonly used in rural Nepal. In this paper we explore how gender norms condition the uptake of these artefacts, and the gendered implications of their uses. We draw on material from a household survey, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews, collected in 2017 in Dhading and Tanahun districts in rural Nepal. The results show that each of the three artefacts initiate distinct, gendered dynamics in terms of uptake, uses, and effects. Women's use of electric rice cookers aligns with their gendered identity as cooks, helping them improve their gendered work and do not trigger resistance from men. In contrast, the use of mobile phones, social media, and television, prompt complex gender outcomes, resistances, and negotiations. Young people use social media to initiate self-negotiated marriages, shunning arranged marriages thus increasing their agency. Access to television and internet has increased awareness about family planning methods, but persistent gender hierarchies hinder women from freely deciding on and accessing these methods. Women and youth pursuing new opportunities that challenge gender norms are sometimes labelled as unfaithful and unruly by others in the villages. The paper highlights the need to understand subversive responses to social and cultural changes mediated by electricity so that policy and practice can support the desired social transformations.

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Solar powered electricity access: Implications for women's empowerment in rural Kenya

Tanja Winther, Kirsten Ulsrud and Anjali Saini, Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 44, October 2018, Pages 61-7

This paper examines the gendered implications of various types of electricity access in rural Kenya spanning from the central grid to solar-based systems such as community projects, village scale supply and private solar home systems (SHS). Drawing on material collected in Homa Bay and Kitui counties in 2016, the paper examines the gendered set-up, organisation and effects of solar powered electricity access as compared with the central grid. The results show that people tend to cherish solar based solutions whereas the grid is perceived to be costly, unreliable and unavailable. As to the gendered organisation of supply, men dominate within the grid, mini-grids and private suppliers, leaving an important potential for women’s empowerment untapped. Two community projects included women’s ‘hands-on’ participation and spurred local discourses about women’s capabilities. Access is also gendered on the user side. Because men tend to own the houses, have a higher income and a moral right to make major decisions, fixed connections and high subscription fees provide women with less agency than what is the case in decentralised systems of supply.

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A glaring omission in India's energy policy: gender justice

Dr G Mini and Debajit Palit discusses how India's draft National Energy Policy, released in June 2017, has ignored the issues of gender justice and gender equity; October 13, 2017.

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'Women's empowerment through electricity access: scoping study and proposal for a framework of analysis'

Tanja Winther, Margaret N. Matinga, Kirsten Ulsrud and Karina Standal, Journal of Development Effectiveness, 2017; VOL. 9, NO.3, 389–417

This article reviews the empirical literature on women’s empowerment through electricity access and the methodologies that have been used. Statistical studies have looked at areas with access to the grid and measured the impact on welfare indicators and employment. Qualitatively oriented studies have looked at various types of supply and studied how electricity access in a given context has influenced women and men in everyday life, sometimes focusing on the role of the design of the systems of supply and the process of electrification. The overall results show that electricity access benefits the welfare of women as well as men, but that the impact on gender relations remains largely unclear. With the ambition to better understand the gendered nature - and impacts – of various types of electricity access, we develop a framework for analysing women's empowerment through electricity and subsequently illustrate its applications by drawing on the reviewed empirical literature.

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'Why we need to measure how electricity empowers women'

Mr Debajit Palit and Dr Mini Govindan discuss while policies are gender-neutral and provide equal opportunities, it doesn't always result in equal outcomes;, 26 December 2016

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'Women's Empowerment in energy projects; What is the meaning?'

Presentation by Dr Tanja Winther at the Symposium on Engendering the Energy Transition, University of Twente, The Netherlands; 23-24 November 2016

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'Applying a gender approach in practice: what does it mean when we meet people in the field?'

Presentation by Tanja Winther at the ENERGIA webinar for participants in the Energy and Gender Research Programme, 29 May 2015.

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'Getting the right gender indicators: observations, challenges and strategies'

Presentation by Tanja Winther at the International webinar on Gender indicators for the energy sector: challenges and way forward'; organised by Gender Equality for Climate Change Opportunities (GECCO) Initiative and ENERGIA, 21st April 2016.

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Surprisingly little is known about electricity's gendered impact

Energia News Volume 17, Issue 1, May 2016; p 9-11

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