Women, the poor, and different excluded groups face various structural barriers preventing them from benefiting fully from Nepal’s energy sector, according to a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The report, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Assessment of the Energy Sector, assesses the status of energy access in Nepal, and their implications for women and the socially excluded.
“Ensuring adequate focus on gender equality and social inclusion is a long-term commitment and priority set out by the Government of Nepal and shared by ADB,” said Francesco Tornieri, an ADB Principal Social Development Specialist. “Although this applies to all sectors, we see the energy sector—one of the most challenging in this regard—as offering a range of remedies both in terms of on-grid and off-grid systems .”
The report details how women in Nepal are responsible for fetching fuel and water for their households as well as for various types of microenterprises. The significant amount of time and effort they spend in collecting fuel takes them away from jobs, education, and other activities for “self-improvement.”
Further, continued dependence on traditional biomass has detrimental effects on women’s health through indoor air pollution caused by smoke and unhealthy work places. Being unable to access energy services, women find it difficult to pull themselves out of poverty and instead get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, the report says.
The report further details how large sections of society do not have the means to buy or afford energy services even when they are near the point of supply. Even those who can afford improved services may not be able to pay for the “conversion technology” that makes that energy useful (e.g., buying a stove, TV, house wiring, or motor).
According to the report, the issue of poverty in Nepal has a strong gender, caste, regional, and geographic dimension that is also reflected in the energy access.
Involvement of local communities in energy projects enhances access to energy, helps secure public acceptance, and improves impacts of energy services and technologies, the report finds.
It recommends that supportive policy and institutional frameworks are essential to address gender and social exclusion issues (GESI) in the energy sector. Equally important are political commitments and other national and regional processes that provide the scope for creating a conducive legal and social environment.
For ADB, this means systematic efforts to address GESI issues, including awareness raising and capacity building of the organization and staff as well as systematic incorporation of such considerations into all levels of a project—from design, implementation, and monitoring, to evaluation, the report says.
In conclusion, the study indicates that consideration of GESI issues in the energy sector is crucial from an equity perspective and to ensure the sustainability of projects.