Integrating gender into planning, management and implementation of rural energy technologies : the perspectives of women in Nepal : a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies, School of People Environment and Planning at Massey University, New Zealand
Women in rural Nepal are heavily involved in management of energy resources particularly biomass, which constitute the main form of rural energy as is the case in most developing countries. Women's most time consuming activities in rural areas of Nepal are cooking, collecting firewood, and processing grain, all of which are directly associated with the rural energy system. Despite women's strategic interests in improved rural energy in Nepal, energy planners (normally male) rarely consider women's roles, needs, and priorities when planning any interventions on rural energy. This study targeted at rural women in the mid hill region of Nepal, has examined the socio-economic implications of alternative energy technologies (AETs) especially in terms of saving women's labor and time and increasing opportunities for them to participate in social and economic activities. The analysis indicates that there is a positive implication of AETs on women's workload especially with access to the micro hydro mills available in the villages. In general, women have been able to save their labor and time in collecting firewood, and milling activities, although this is not always apparent due to women using the saved time for other household chores. However, AETs were rarely used for promoting end use activities (such as, energy based small cottage industries) in order to enhance women's socio-economic status. In addition, AETs had rather limited coverage and were not able to fulfill the energy demands of all rural households. There were also limitations in the adoption of such technologies mainly due to financial, technical, and social problems. For instance, the solar photovoltaic system and biogas plants were still costly for the poorest households even with subsidies. Consequently, socio-economic gaps within small communities widened and became highly visible with access to such technologies. Women's participation was mainly in terms of their involvement in community organizations (COs) and representation in Village Energy Committees (VECs) rather than their active participation in planning and decision-making processes with regard to AETs. Nevertheless, women were actively involved in providing labor in construction work relating to AETs, and creating and mobilizing saving funds as a means to be involved in small income generating activities associated with AETs. This study ultimately suggests a framework for increasing women's participation in rural energy plans and programs at local and national level, and develops policy measures to enable integration of gender into energy planning and policies. This would help to address practical and strategic gender needs in terms of fulfilling basic energy needs managed by women, and providing them with opportunities to be involved in some social and economic activities, which lead towards the self-enhancement of women.