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The gender-energy-poverty nexus: finding the energy to address gender concerns in development

DFID Project CNTR998521

Joy S Clancy and Margaret Skutsch, Technology and Development Group, University of Twente
and Simon Batchelor, Gamos Ltd, UK

Project administrated by Halcrow Ltd

This document is an output from a project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID. Posted with permission of DFID (Pretoria)
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The links between gender and poverty have been explored in many papers on livelihood strategy and development "best practice". However, few of them tackle an element of poverty that can occupy a quarter of the rural woman's time, affects her health, and is a key to developing her gender-strategic interests: energy. Although the presence of links between gender, poverty and energy have been hinted at in many studies, for example in DFID's publication 'Energy for the Poor' (2002), there are few that tackle it head on. This paper has been commissioned by DFID to explore current thinking on the gender-energy-poverty nexus, in particular to review the key issues and highlight areas that need to be addressed, and to suggest actions and further studies that need to be undertaken in order to "find the energy to address gender concerns". It is hoped that this analysis and the recommendations that are drawn from it will be valuable to professionals working in the fields of gender and social development, not only within DFID and similar donor organisations, but also in other national institutions, NGOs and academic circles.

Challenges within the gender and poverty nexus concern the ideas of access to resources, decision-making, and control. Most gender analysis tools (as found in development literature, and particularly in 'toolkits for development planners' etc, such as Williams et al.,1994) are rather general, and aim to assist the planner to understand the overall situation of women in rural areas. They commonly call for the gathering of data on time inputs by men and women into different activities (as in the Harvard Matrix), and for an assessment of the differences between men and women in their access to, and control over, resources. Planners need frameworks that can be used systematically to analyse different situations and allow reasoned and responsive decisions to be made. However, much of the literature on access and control fails to note the key role of energy, and it can be questioned whether the usual gender analytic tools are adequate to bring out the energy component in women's livelihoods.

This paper starts by outlining some of the key concerns regarding poverty and sustainable livelihoods. Noting that the role of energy in these is often not fully recognised, it then explores energy as a strategic issue in poverty, and discusses the difficulties in the provision of energy services for the poor. The paper then moves on to consider gender aspects of the poverty-energy link, and how energy provision can contribute to moving women and their families out of poverty. The focus then turns to the issue of sustainable livelihoods, and the part energy plays in these, first in general terms and then specifically in gender terms. The paper concludes by listing some of the major areas in which research is still needed to improve our understanding of the role of energy in poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods, and the role it can play in meeting women's strategic needs. The focus is primarily on rural livelihoods, reflecting the material available. The purpose is to identify current gaps in knowledge of the gender-energy-poverty nexus, suggest further study that can address these gaps, and finally the subtitle can be reformulated as a question: can we find the energy to address gender concerns in development?

The paper is based on a review of the available literature, in particular a bibliography on gender and energy that was earlier prepared by the authors (Feenstra, Clancy, and Skutsch 2001) and a survey of development practitioners working in gender and energy, which was carried out for DFID by the research team and presented under the title Gender, Energy, Poverty Nexus - where is the strategic interest? Quotes which represent the opinions polled by this survey are included to support many of the points made in the current paper, in small boxes adjacent to the text.

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