Energy is a key factor in the pursuit of sustainable development due to its linkages with poverty and environmental degradation. Rural livelihoods are crucially affected by the availability of energy sources. Women use energy for cooking, heating water, lighting, ironing and heating, and the availability of cheap and accessible energy could enable them to devote more of their energy to productive activities. However, women's decisions about energy usage may be constrained by other demands on their time, preventing them from taking advantage of eg. electricity off-peak rates or solar power sources. Furthermore, the appropriation of new energy technologies by men may mean that women perceive batteries or electricity as not applicable for them to use. Thus, the specific needs and constraints of women need to be addressed in national energy supply policies. These and numerous other gender-energy issues are raised in four sub- sections: Gender, Energy and Environmental degradation; Energy Needs and the Gender Division of Labour; Gender and Energy-Related Decisions; and Energy Efficiency. Lessons learnt and recommendations for best practice pertaining to each of these areas are provided. The overall message is that forestry, conservation and energy supply policies need to be oriented around the sustainable livelihood priorities of rural women and men.
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