Resolving Poverty-Gender-Energy-Nexus by Stakeholder Engagement
DSA Conference 2009, 'Contemporary Crises and New Opportunities', University of Ulster, Coleraine Campus, September 2-4, 2009
15 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2011
Date Written: September 4, 2009
No development is real that does not address poverty, as it is one of the world’s most fundamental and urgent issues. Energy is a commodity that provides services and offers job opportunities. It is a basic necessity, for survival and a fundamental input to economic and social development. Poverty influences and determines energy choices of poor households. Secure and improved energy services are a necessary condition for development and poverty reduction, and yet energy security has not figured prominently in the development agenda.
Typically, a poor urban family spends 20% of its income on fuels (Barnes, 1995). Energy has an equity dimension: Poor households use less energy than wealthier ones in absolute terms. Further the energy-poverty nexus has distinct gender characteristics. Gender roles of men and women, with their accompanying responsibilities, constraints, opportunities, and needs, are defined by a particular society. These roles change over time and vary widely within and across cultures. Lack of energy services is directly correlated with the major elements of poverty, including inadequate healthcare, low education levels and limited employment opportunities. Gender issues have come to the forefront in many development sectors including agriculture, forestry and water but the energy sector has been slow to acknowledge the links between gender equality, energy and development.
In many developing countries women are particularly affected by lack of accessible and affordable energy services due to their traditional roles, household responsibilities, and low social and political status. Men and women have different energy needs and may have different ideas about sustainable livelihoods. Men are mainly responsible for technical decisions and investments while the women have the responsibility for energy conservation.
It is estimated that 70% of the 1.5 billion people living on less than a dollar a day are women According to the World Bank (2001) women of all developing countries spend between 2-9 hours a day collecting fuel and fodder, and performing cooking chores.
The responsibility for household energy provision affects women’s health disproportionately to men’s. More than half of the world’s households cook with wood, animal waste, crop residues and untreated coal. Biomass collection to meet a household’s energy needs is the burden of women and girls. In rural areas, it can mean spending several hours a day collecting fuel wood loads of 20 kg or more. “According to the World Health Organization, exposure to indoor air pollution is responsible for the nearly two million excess deaths, primarily women and children, from cancer, respiratory infections and lung diseases and for four percent of the global burden of disease”. . Shifting from fuel wood to cleaner sources of energy, like kerosene or LPG, halves the mortality rate of children under five (World Bank, 2001).
In most developing countries, the majority of informal sector enterprises are owned and operated by women, with women making up the largest proportion of the work force. Women’s survival tasks, based on their own metabolic energy inputs are, like biomass, invisible in energy statistics (Cecelski, 1999). Women have to be empowered to make choices about energy.
This vicious cycle of energy poverty needs to be broken. The invisibility of energy-poverty issues leads to decision- makers not being fully aware of their significance, and so policies and strategies fail to address the issues fully like the introduction of stoves in India in 2003.
This paper looks at these issues and options available for resolving this poverty-gender-energy-nexus by engaging the stakeholders and use of NGO’s and Corporates as part of their CSR programme from the experience of a developing country - India.
Keywords: Poverty, energy, Gender, Nexus, CSR
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