Empowering women with clean energy – at home and in agriculture


National Consultation suggests the way forward

The need to make LPG use the ‘new normal’ and engender the ‘Draft National Energy Policy’ was highlighted at a one-day consultation on ‘Political Economy of Gender and Energy ’ on November 1, 2017. Organized by MSSRF, in collaboration with NITI Aayog, Government of India and ENERGIA – an International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy – the event saw active participation from policy makers, academicians and civil society organizations. 

Speaking on the occasion, Shri.Rajnath Ram, Joint Adviser, NITI Aayog detailed the Draft National Energy Policy for 100% electrification by 2022 and switching to clean fuel sources like LPG, PNG and electricity. The Prime Minister’s Ujjwala Yojana was hailed as a step towards achieving the target of universal clean cooking coverage. 

Dr. Mridul Eapen, Member, Kerala State Planning Board spoke of inter-linkage of women’s empowerment and energy use. She said Kerala had high LPG use in spite of low work participation rate for women. She acknowledge the catalytic role of Kudumbashree programme of the state, in the empowerment of women and encouraging large scale adoption of LPG and energy use in agriculture and allied sectors.

Prof M S Swaminathan, Founder, MSSRF, emphasized the need for engendering programmes and plans, right at the designing and planning stages. He highlighted the lack of gender inclusiveness in the implementation of several national programmes like kisan credit cards. He hoped the consultation would result in relevant policy suggestions.

Dr. Madhura Swaminathan, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute and Chairperson MSSRF, chaired the technical sessions on ‘Clean Cooking Energy’ and emphasized the need for sensitizing men on drudgery and health risk associated with solid biomass use for women. Dr. Dev Nathan, Political Economist, MSSRF, drew attention to the WHO report of 1.3 million deaths in India per year due to solid fuel induced Household Air Pollution. He said this had to be treated as a public health crisis and called for promotion of LPG as an ‘aspiration/prestige good’ to promote wider adoption.

Key action strategies suggested to encourage adoption of clean energy by women included: i) Treating LPG as the ‘new-normal’ good, ii) Participatory designing and development of women friendly agricultural tools and machinery, iii) Promotion of women’s collective to influence change in social norms in promoting the use of farm machinery by women and iv) Encouraging women’s participation in the energy value chains.  

Dr. Indu Agnihotri, Director, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi chaired the session on Gender, Energy and Agriculture’. Dr.Govind Kelkar, Research Lead, Gender and Energy, MSSRF called for delinking of the definition of farmer from ownership of any agricultural land to facilitate women’s access to energy for agriculture.  Promotion of coalition for women as agricultural producers, entitled to modern energy use, can influence official policies on entitlements of women in India and South Asia, she said. Dr R Rengalakshmi, Director Ecotechnology, MSSRF provided a summary of the sessions and the consultation outcome.