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close this bookEnergy after Rio - Prospects and Challenges - Executive Summary (UNDP, 1997, 38 p.)
close this folder2. Energy and Major Global Issues
close this folder2.1 Energy and Social Issues
View the document2.1.1 Poverty
View the document2.1.2 Gender Disparity
View the document2.1.3 Population
View the document2.1.4 Undernutrition and Food

2.1.2 Gender Disparity

Conventional energy approaches virtually exclude women’s concerns from the current capital-intensive, monetised, expert-dominated energy sector. Consequently, economic growth has unfortunately been accompanied by (often severe) gender disparities. Globally, 70% of people living in poverty are women.

More than half of the world’s households cook daily with wood, crop residues and untreated coal. Home-based industries depend on biomass supplies. Women in developing countries spend long hours working in survival activities - cooking, fuelwood collection, water carrying and food processing. Women’s time in these survival tasks is, however, largely invisible in the statistics compiled on patterns of energy use. Women and children’s time spent on fuel and water collection represents a high social and economic cost to the family and society, and is directly related to the low level of energy services that are available to people living in poverty.

The nutritional status of women is often worsened because, for cultural reasons, they eat last and least and in addition they tend to expend more energy in work than men. Part of this greater labour is related to domestic chores such as gathering firewood, fetching drinking water, etc. These chores could be avoided, for example, by providing access to cooking fuel and/or efficient stoves and to water for domestic purposes.

Women’s key role in environment issues and sustainable development is an accepted fact. What is less well-known is that many of women’s environmental roles and concerns are closely linked to the use, supply and management of energy resources. Strengthening the role of energy in advancing sustainable development will require paying attention to the special role of women, and specific attention to women’s participation in energy activities. This can be achieved by recognising the specific relationships between women’s needs, roles and concerns, and the energy system.