Gender and Energy

Domestic energy is one of most important sources of energy consumption in region, primarily firewood, charcoal and animal waste. In Nicaragua, for example, firewood constitutes close to 94% of the energy used at the household level. Firewood is the most common form of energy for cooking, with sustainability, gender and health implications:

  • * For the poor, quality of biomass energy tends to be low, and it gives off quantities of smoke and particulates that cause a higher incidence of lung and eye diseases among women and girls who spend long hours of exposure to smoke and particulates in kitchens.
  • * Women and girls tend to be responsible for gathering firewood, affecting their health and keeping girls away from school.
  • * The several hours a day spent in collecting fuel means that this time cannot be used for other livelihood activities, with the amount of time spent increasing as environmental degradation increases. (Energy Poverty, 2010; Energia 2010; Branco, 2002).


Energy development has generally benefitted urban users much more than rural communities. Many people do not have access to energy in the quantity and form they need to satisfy their basic household and productivity needs, and so remain in poverty. Problems with access to energy are greatest in the rural areas where electrical power is insufficient. This is often a gender issue, as men increasingly migrate to urban areas in search of employment. Additionally, women tend to be the most affected by lack of electricity, being required to substitute physical labour to accomplish their household tasks (IAE, 2011; Branco, 2002).

Other gendered perspectives on energy use involve differing uses for energy sources. For example, men tend to view the benefits of electricity in terms of leisure, quality of life and education for children; while women see it as a way to reduce workload, improve health and reduce expenditure. Women are generally responsible for household energy provision and use, while men tend to make the decisions concerning energy sources that are purchased. Batteries, for example, required in areas without electricity, are very expensive for poor rural households, and are often used for luxury items such as radios and televisions rather than for labour-saving appliances (Clancy et al, 2003; and McDade and Clancy, 2003).

The effects of privatisation and commercialisation of energy provision pose important questions for the provision of energy to the rural poor. It involves the removal of direct subsidies on fuels and appliances with a trend to market-based solutions. This poses obstacles to the introduction of renewable energies since many have high initial investment costs and are otherwise out of the reach of the poor. Privatisation could contribute to sustainable livelihoods for women by offering new opportunities to enter the market in providing local renewable energy services. (Clancy et al, 2003.; Branco, 2002)

Women are also poorly represented in the energy sector as energy professionals. Female responses to a 2008 survey of energy professionals from 75 countries by the Energy Institute in the UK made up only 9% of total responses. At the Executive and Board levels, the percentages are even lower. Many initiatives are emerging to promote women’s development, management and maintenance of clean energy initiatives in the developing world, as well as to run enterprises based on clean energy sources (Ipsos MORI, 2008).

Relevant energy issues for women include whether lower priced conversion technologies or mass production can improve access to energy at the household level, how women can be trained as energy professionals and technicians in renewable energies as a capacity building strategy, and how renewable energies can base small-scale income generating enterprises for both women and men in rural areas.


Where Energy is Women's Business: 
National and Regional Reports from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific


Compilation of national and regional gender and energy reports in preparation for discussions on access to energy at the 14th and 15th session of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development.

Energy for Underserved Populations - Gender Considerations

Presentation by Patricia Taboada-Serrano, Liaison to the IANAS Energy Program, IANAS Women for Science Working Group.

The Relationship between Gender, Energy and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Leontine van den Hooven, Fundación Solar, Guatemala.

ENERGIA Regional Paper prepared for the 14th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development May 2006.

Concepts and Issues in Gender and Energy

paper was commissioned by ENERGIA in response to a request by network members for a clearer understanding of gender concepts and how these manifest themselves in the energy sector. The paper also identifies some key issues of how energy plays a role in transforming women’s lives. The paper is divided into two sections: the first section defines gender concepts and places them in the context of the energy sector, while the second section describes issues of gender and energy.

Energy, Women and Rural Poverty: a Review Focusing on Latin America

Rath, Amitav , May 2005

This review on rural poverty, energy and gender with a focus on Latin America has been commissioned to provide insights to a larger project being undertaken by the University of Calgary and the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), supported by the Canadian International Development Agency. A key objective of this project is to develop energy policy guidelines and startegies for rural energy development, incorporating social and gender issues.

Energy and Gender in Rural Sustainable Development


This paper discusses some gender issues and energy linkages within the international sustainable development context and presents recommendations on ways of incorporating gender sensitivity into energy and development policies and planning processes.

The Role of Women in Sustainable Energy Development

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, June 2000

This study explores the question of how sustainable energy development – specifically, decentralized renewable energy technologies – can complement and benefit from the goal of increasing women's role in development. Why do women need renewable energy? Are women really interested in renewable energy technologies (RETs)? Will women automatically benefit from RETs? Why is a gender perspective relevant in the energy sector?

Gender, Energy Technologies and Climate Change

Sustainable energy technologies are essential for effective climate change responses, as well as for economic and social advancement, including increased access to food, water, shelter, sanitation, medical care, schooling and information.

Women in developing countries are already facing many challenges, especially those who are living in poverty and/or dependent on small-scale agriculture and collection of water and fuel from their local environment to meet their daily needs. In many cases they lack even basic technologies like lights, stoves, grinders and pumps that could ease their daily household burdens, or any modern equipment that could provide opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

Climate change is likely to make the lives of women in developing countries even more difficult. However, there is also great potential for climate-related funds and mechanisms to support new investments in low-carbon, renewable and energy-efficient technologies that would benefit women while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Indoor air pollution and lowered respiratory tract infections

Report of a symposium and a workshop held at the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology, Paris, 4 September 2006, presenting preliminary results of a randomized intervention trial in Guatemala and discussing the implication for policy, advocacy and future research.

Small-Scale Bioenergy Initiatives

Brief description and preliminary lessons on livelihood impacts from case studies in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Final Report, January 2009.

Gender and Equity Issues in Liquid Biofuels Production: 
Minimizing the Risks to Maximize the Opportunities

Andrea Rossi & Yianna Lambrou, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Rome 2008

Solar-Based Rural Electrification and Microenterprise Development in Latin America: 
A gender analysis

Smith, Julie A., 2000. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

This paper describes the use of decentralized renewable energy systems as one approach to meet the energy needs of rural areas in Latin America. It outlines the advantages of a decentralized energy paradigm to achieve international development goals, especially as they relate to women. The paper studies Enersol Associates, Inc's Solar-Based Rural Electrification model as an example of a decentralized energy program that has merged energy and development needs through the local involvement of energy entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations and community members.

Peru Healthy Kitchen/Healthy Stove Pilot Project

Beginning in 2003, the energy team of USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade, and the environmental health team of the Bureau for Global Health jointly supported a cooperative agreement with Winrock International to develop models to reduce indoor air pollution by combining fuel-efficient cooking technologies with behavior change messages and market-based distribution mechanisms. Winrock developed two project models: a peri-urban model piloted in Bangladesh for poor households and a rural model piloted in the highlands of Peru for indigenous communities.

Best Practices for Sustainable Development of Micro Hydro Power in Developing Countries, Practical Action Includes a section on Gender and Microhydro and case studies from Peru.

A Case Study in the Brazilian Amazon Region: a Gender Approach to Energy Supply

Branco, Adelia de Melo, 2002

The case study presented here focuses on a poverty alleviation project1 developed to serve as a model for promoting sustainable development through the use of renewable energy in the Amazon region. Gender differences should be considered in poverty mitigation projects because of the very important role women play in the household and productive activities in poor households.


Gender and Energy Development Strategies (GEDS), ESMAP, Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, World Bank.

The GEDS program includes (i) gender based impact of energy service provision; (ii) enhancing women’s economic opportunities in energy SME development; (iii) gender dimension in climate change mitigation and adaptation; (iv) knowledge generation, dissemination and outreach; (v) capacity building of government counterparts and facilitating counterpart partnership.

Gender, Climate Change and Energy Production & Consumption

Women for Climate Justice is a global network of women and gender activists and experts from all world regions working for gender and climate justice.

UNESCAP Project on Capacity Building on Integration of Energy and Rural Development Planning

The UNESCAP project “Capacity building on integration of energy and rural development planning” aims to promote rural energy development through capacity building on integration of energy and rural development issues, stakeholder involvement and facilitation of information exchange among stakeholders. The project is developed to enhance national capacities in identifying linkages between energy and rural development to promote long-term, integrated and well-coordinated rural energy planning.


A Guide on Gender Mainstreaming in the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme

ENERGIA has developed a Gender Mainstreaming Guide for the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP). The Guide targets non-gender specialists in recognizing and addressing gender issues in their work, with the intention of demystifying gender, and clarifying the concept and practice of “gender mainstreaming” within ABPP. Accompanied by a Resource Kit, this Guide uses experiences from Asia, as well as Africa. The guide is not only limited to the ABPP and can be used by other biogas interventions as well.

ENERGIA Training Modules on Gender and Energy

Training packages have been designed by ENERGIA for the training of selected practitioners (policy makers, planners and project implementers, NGOs, private sector and academia) to increase their understanding of gender and energy inter-relationships and their capacity to bring gender aspects of energy into the policy and project planning.

Gender Mainstreaming - a Key Driver of Development in Environment & Energy

Training Manual, UNDP

Gender and Energy for Sustainable DevelopmentA toolkit and resource guide.


Mainstreaming Gender in Energy Planning and Policies


Women's Role in the Clean Energy Economy.
Women Will Be Critical Workers and Innovators of the Future


It’s true that men have been hit the hardest in the recession as far an unemployment numbers go, but we will need to seize the opportunity to diversify the future workforce in a way that will incorporate all workers in all areas of the clean energy economy including those where women have been traditionally underrepresented.

Women and their Roles in the Energy Industry: A Survey.

November 4, 2010

The data presented is intended to be directional in nature and not representative of all female executives in the energy industry. To date, 278 responses have been gathered. Individuals, however, are still encouraged to participate in the survey.

Association of Energy Professionals

Council on Women In Energy & Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) AEE is pleased to announce our newest division, CWEEL, for professional women representing all segments of the energy and environmental fields. The Council on Women in Energy & Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) provides a network for women in the energy and environmental industries that can assist in supporting career development for professional women, mentor young and aspiring women to pursue technical education and careers in the energy and environmental fields, and establish CWEEL as a forum for women to promote policy in the energy industry.

Celebrating Women's History Month: 
10 Networking Resources for Women Pursuing Green Careers You Should Know About

Updated. 10 active networking groups for women pursuing sustainable energy and environmental career

Women Working in Green Construction and Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet

Workforce development professionals have a unique opportunity to coalesce the interests of employers and potential employees while helping to ensure that women are poised to take full advantage of the green economy; especially in green construction and energy efficiency retrofitting, renovation, and energy sourcing.

Clean Energy Education and Empowerment 'C-3E' Women's Initiative, a product of President Obama’s commitment to expand education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields for women. The C-3E Women’s Initiative aims to inspire young women to pursue studies that will enable them to participate in the clean energy revolution.

USAID and Grameen Shakti Empower Rural Poor with Access to Clean Energy

In Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti is training rural women to be solar technicians and enabling green entrepreneurs through a highly successful microcredit program. USAID supports Grameen Shakti with US$2 million in funding to focus on the economic empowerment of rural women by training them to install and maintain photovoltaic Solar Home Systems (SHS), Improved Cooking Stoves (ICS) and Biogas plants.

Unequal representation of women and men in energy company boards and management groups: 
Are there implications for mitigation?

Carlsson-Kanyama, Isabel Ripa Juliá and Ulrike Röhr.

This survey shows that female representation in boards and management groups of large energy companies in Germany, Spain and Sweden is far from being gender-equal. Of the 464 companies surveyed, 295 (64%) had no women at all in boards or management groups and only 5% could be considered gender-equal by having 40% or more women in such positions. The findings are discussed against the background of differences in risk perceptions among women and men, evidence of women’s impact on boards and companies’ performance and the substantial risks related to unabated climate change.