Gender, Culture and Energy Transitions in Rural Africa

Citation:

Johnson, Oliver W., Vanessa Gerber, and Cassilde Muhoza. 2019. “Gender, Culture and Energy Transitions in Rural Africa.” Energy Research & Social Science 49 (March): 169–79.

Authors: Oliver W. Johnson, Vanessa Gerber, Cassilde Muhoza

Abstract:

Research over the past two decades on links between energy, gender and development suggests that greater inclusion of gender concerns in energy sector decision-making improves development outcomes. In practice, this has typically led to gendered energy approaches that focus more on technological fixes rather than providing appropriate energy services, and on meeting women’s immediate needs rather than addressing the broader cultural, socio-economic and political contexts important for attaining genuine gender equity. In this paper, we take a systems perspective to explore gender issues in the context of a transition from traditional to modern energy services, such as lighting, powering appliances and charging mobile phones. Viewing gender through the lens of the Energy Cultures Framework, we analyse the case of the Mpanta solar mini-grid in rural northern Zambia. We find that the transition to more modern energy services is far from gender neutral: despite providing broad benefits within the community, the benefits derived from a new technology and service were not evenly distributed between men and women due to broader socio-cultural practices and norms. This paper extends the application of the Energy Cultures Framework in two important ways. Firstly, it incorporates an explicit gender dimension into the framework. Secondly, it applies the framework in a new context – rural energy transitions in low-income countries. In doing so, this paper offers important insights for research and practice in energy, gender and development.

Topics: Development, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Infrastructure, Energy Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Zambia

Year: 2019

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