‘Women’s Empowerment in Energy Projects: What is the Meaning?’
Tanja Winther, Associate Professor, Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo
Women’s empowerment matters in the quest of balancing unequal gender relations. Also, any individual who has experienced the shift from traditional energy sources to electricity and modern appliances would testify that energy matters. The marvel of electric light and the possibility to use a mobile phone attract and fascinate young and old, and, once introduced, it soon becomes hard to imagine how modern life could be lived without access modern forms of energy.
In this piece I reflect on how we may understand women’s empowerment through the process of electrification. I draw on recent work in the ‘EFEWEE project’ (Winther et al. in progress), where we argued that empowerment in energy has been neglected and where we proposed a framework for analysis. We perceive empowerment as a complex process in which marginalized groups move out of their subordinated position, giving analytic attention to four dimensions: i) overall gender norms and ideologies, ii) access to and control over resources, iii) power to influence decisions in general and iv) power to influence matters regarding electricity. Examples from concrete cases will be used for illustrating that the gendered outcomes of energy projects are highly varying and that there are multiple paths to women’s empowerment through electrification.