Finding Ways to Lift Indian Women Out of (Energy) Poverty

A woman cooking puri, the traditional Indian flatbread.
A woman cooking puri, the traditional Indian flatbread.

By Teresa Kho

Do you have ideas or solutions that can help us ensure women have better, cleaner energy access in the future? Please let us know.

In India, women suffer more than men from energy scarcity and related environmental degradation. Lack of a modern energy supply means they spend more time on subsistence activities, notably cooking, leaving no time for income-generating activities. Their health also suffers because they have to use traditional cooking methods—using smoke-generating firewood or charcoal—that expose them to household air pollution. 

Improving women’s access to energy has a vast potential of boosting livelihoods for women at all levels. This is especially true in Rajasthan, a renewable energy rich state, so there could not have been a better venue for ADB to gather experts of all kinds at a subregional conference to discuss inclusive energy solutions for South Asia, organized for next week in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

In Rajasthan, ADB is already supporting the state government under the ongoing Rajasthan Renewable Energy Transmission Investment Program, which promotes inclusive energy access solutions, including for women. A community development fund has been set up under the program by levying an upfront nominal fee on renewable energy projects that will support social development projects including support for livelihood opportunities.

In the near term, key areas of ADB assistance will include electricity transmission and distribution, distribution loss reduction, building the capacity of state utilities, developing renewable energy, boosting energy efficiency, and encouraging private sector participation. The program takes account of the government’s flagship initiatives, including 24x7 Power for All. The focus of our Rajasthan conference is on exchanging ideas and lessons from innovative and emerging practices in pro-poor, gender-sensitive and socially-inclusive energy sector policy development. It will provide a platform to share good practices and workable solutions with key decision-makers from central and state ministries, project directors, and staff from executing and implementing agencies associated with ADB projects.

The meetings aims to concentrate on what we consider as key areas for the future, namely:

  • Designing inclusive energy sector policies and regulations for the benefit of local communities with special focus on gender and social inclusion.
  • Building on ADB flagship projects and specific country experiences in productive energy use involving communities.
  • Creating a local pool of skilled labor, including women’s, to meet South Asia’s energy needs.
  • Promoting innovative technologies and processes to meet the technological, engineering, and social challenges in transforming South Asia’s energy sector to ensure it is inclusive.
  • Developing alternative financing schemes and business models for inclusive energy that can be replicated across the sub-region.

The feedback from these discussions will inform ADB’s activities in the energy arena across South Asia. Do you have ideas or solutions that can help us ensure women—and their families—have better, cleaner energy access in the future? Leave us a comment below. We want you to be part of the conversation.