Global Resources

Mutual benefits of emPOWERing women for sustainable and inclusive development

Publisher: United Nations [UN] Industrial Development Organization
Publication Date: Nov 2015

The energy and gender nexus is based on the recognition that men and women have different needs and priorities with regard to energy, stemming from gendered societal and cultural roles. Without access to energy, women often face especially exhausting and time-consuming work when undertaking basic subsistence tasks. This can constrain them from accessing education and livelihood-enhancing opportunities. Another gendered aspect of energy is that of safety; for example, non-existent or insufficient street lighting, and women and girls made to travel long distances to collect firewood, increase the occurrence of violence against them.


To raise awareness of the important nature of the gender and energy nexus, this publication provides an overview of work currently being conducted by UNIDO and others. Following an introduction, the majority of the publication is dedicated to discussing the best practices related to engendering energy projects and programmes. Research draws on numerous case studies of active programmes and initiatives, covering a number of key sectors and processes, including:


  • Mainstreaming gender in regional sustainable energy centres: energy presents an ideal entry point to promoting gender equality, as illustrated in case studies of the Island Women Open Network, which convenes a powerful advocacy group for sustainable energy and gender issues in small island developing states, and a programme on gender mainstreaming in energy access in West Africa.
  • Engendering sustainable cities: inclusiveness, cultural adequacy, fairness, and gender equality are crucial aspects of a sustainable city, and energy, as an integral component of urbanity, can and should take such considerations into account, including adequate lighting to protect women from violent crime.
  • Engendering renewable energy projects: an example of positive work toward including women in renewable energy and promoting economic empowerment, the Gambian government adopted a renewable energy law that required the establishment of a fund designed to provide women and youth entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector with grants and support.
  • Addressing women’s basic energy needs: women play a crucial role in the adoption and spread of clean household cooking solutions, as evidenced by initiatives concerning clean cooking fuel in Zanzibar, the promotion of energy efficient brewing in Burkina Faso, and energy-efficient stoves in micro- and small-scale food production in Chad.
  • Engendering the energy efficiency sector: barriers for women in this sector were identified by the Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement Project in South Africa, including discrimination, limited access to information and training, and underrepresentation in management, leading to the development of activities to promote gender equality, and adjustments to training.


Next, the report discusses initiatives designed to build capacity and raise awareness on the energy-gender nexus, including the Vienna Energy Forum, a UNIDO webinar that brought together experts and entrepreneurs in the field of sustainable energy to reflect on the role of energy technologies in empowering women, and the StandTall campaign which has reached thousands through social media.


The publication concludes by listing the key factors for successful energy products by fostering inclusive and sustainable development:holistic approaches to renewable energy systems; comprehensive and inclusive local capacity building, including creating knowledge and awareness on the energy and gender nexus; local engagement and ownership; support for local governments; joint implementations; and the inclusion of the whole community, including women.