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How Gender-sensitive Are India’s Energy Policies?

The two flagship energy policies in India—the Integrated Energy Policy and the National Energy Policy—fail to recognise women’s gendered role in production, access to energy, and formulation of energy policies and programmes. Recent gender-sensitive energy programmes like the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and the Saubhagya scheme need to be replicated and scaled up to improve the energy security needs of women.

Access to clean energy is gendered. It is influenced by intra-household decision-making driven by restrictive gender norms (Dutta et al 2017). Energy policies that do not recognise the gendered nature of energy access will continue to focus on supply-side measures without giving due attention to the diverse energy demand characteristics of end users. Women and men have differential energy needs given the prescribed gender roles at both household and productive spheres. Cooking, washing and care work, and the consequent lack of access to clean energy for these activities have an impact on women more than men. Women are more vulnerable to household air pollution-related health hazards from solid biomass use as they are primarily engaged in cooking as well as fuel collection for cooking (Sovacool 2012). The other impact of solid biomass dependence is in terms of lost opportunities of women’s time and labour (Sagar 2005). Lack of clean energy-based home appliances increases women’s drud­gery in household work.

In agriculture and allied rural livelihoods, there is a clear gendered division of labour (Contzen and Forney 2017). Women are largely engaged in labour-intensive activities like sowing, transplanting, weeding, and harvesting (Behera and Behera 2013). However, women face barriers in accessing clean energy-based drudgery-reducing implements/machineries due to restrictive gender norms that limit their ownership of productive assets and recognition as farmers (Mokyr 2017; Kelkar and Krishnaraj 2013). Furthermore, women’s role in energy supply and value chain is seldom recognised in policies. Their contribution to energy supply is estimated in the range of 10% to 80% of the total energy in developing countries (Parikh 1995). Women participate in the energy supply chain as biomass collectors, producers of charcoal, briquettes, dung cakes, improved cook stoves, solar lights and also in marketing of energy products like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), cook stoves, solar lights and cookers (Dutta 2015; Parikh 1995).

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Updated On : 22nd Jan, 2019

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