This project focused on SDG7: “Affordable and Clean Energy” and SDG5: “Gender equality”.
While much research, policy and practice address these SDGs separately, there are major gaps in knowledge and action on how energy access and gender equality intersect. Energy access initiatives are, for instance, only starting to consider how gendered conventions determine ‘necessary’ energy use (e.g. UNIDO, 2013). Progress on one SDG can therefore lead to unintended consequences for the other (c.f. Fukuda-Parr, 2014). Measures promoting energy access could even adversely affect gender equality; e.g. reinforcing existing disparities within energy resource management arrangements (Köhlin et al., 2011).
Specifically, the project challenged under-researched mechanisms that reproduce gender inequalities through structures and processes of energy access; e.g. decision-making procedures around energy provision and consumption. In particular, the project focused on professionals who are themselves agents of (structural) change, investigating how their expectations of current/future ‘needs’ and ‘practices’ shaped their present actions (Borup et al., 2006; Strengers et al., 2018).
The project yielded actionable, evidence-based recommendations for stakeholders in both energy and gender equality fields (e.g. via network-formation, workshops, policy briefs), to support the equitable development of new and ongoing policies and interventions on energy access. The project also helped link technical aspects of energy infrastructure with social aspects, providing an interdisciplinary socio-technical understanding of energy, built on knowledge exchange between partners. Such an approach was critical in ensuring energy policy(makers) start conceptualising gender in more inclusive ways, as part of energy access interventions; e.g. going beyond understanding women only as energy-users.