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Gender dimensions in household energy
4 by Ishara Mahat, Institute of Development Studies, School of People Environment and Planning, Massey University
5 Private Bag 11222, New Zealand. Email: or
8 In much of the literature, it has been Table 1 Gender roles in firewood management
9 argued and proved that women are the
Who cuts down trees? Who collects firewood? Who stores it?
10 primary managers of household (%) (%) (%)
1 energy. Women collect and use fire-
wood resources effectively and effi- Women 35 65 71
2 Men 44 5 3
3 ciently, and process grain with tradi- Both 21 30 26
4 tional technologies using their own Total 100 100 100
5 energy. Women as the primary users of
Source: Field survey, 2002
6 household energy, have expertise in
7 local biomass resources, including management in one of the villages in public forest other than their own took
8 their properties as fuels and in adopting Kavre district, Nepal. longer than those collecting from their
9 fuel-saving techniques. Women can As indicated in Table 1, more than own fields or community forest.
20111 differentiate between those woodfuels 60 per cent of women were involved
1 that burn fast with high heat, those that in collecting and storing firewood. Access to biomass
2 burn slowly with low heat, and those resources
The highest percentages of men were
3 that smoke (Kelkar, 1995; Cecelski, involved in cutting trees, as women It is important to know how women
4 1995). In fact, women have become were considered not to be strong manage the biomass resources, since
5 excellent managers of energy resources enough for this task. In some cases, biomass still occupies a major share in
6 in order to survive, because they are the both men and women were involved the household energy system. During
7 ones most affected by energy crises
in cutting, collecting and storing the my field visits, I found that women
(Batliwala and Reddy, 1996:3). firewood as well. Especially, in
9 Gender dimensions become partic- collect firewood from around their
30 Tamang households, men also shared fields to fulfil their minimum fuel
ularly important when energy is a part women’s work in managing energy
1 of the household system. Knowing requirements. Often women used agri-
2 resources, unlike with Brahmin house- cultural residues and fodder sticks for
how men and women participate in the holds.
3 household energy system and how cooking. Since the local community
4 Figure 1 shows the average time had access to the community forest
they benefit is important and needs to taken by women for collecting a bun-
5 (community forest is the forest owned
be analysed.
6 dle of firewood in one of the villages and managed by the community and
7 Gender roles in in the Kavre district of Nepal. accessed solely by that community),
8 The 48 per cent of respondents women could collect the fallen dry
management of household
9 (women) who mentioned that it took firewood from this forest regularly.
energy resources two hours for them to collect the fire- They would collect high quality fire-
1 Women are highly involved in manag- wood gathered it from their own fields wood once or twice a year when the
2 ing household energy resources, Table or community forest. Those who col- community forest needed to be
3 1 presents the gender roles in firewood lected firewood either from private or cleared.
6 2% 4%
7 15%
Percentage of respondents

8 40
9 29%
50 30 Public forest
Own field
20 Community forest
4 Own and community
5 10
31% Stealing from other
6 people’s fields
7 0 Buying from other
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
8 19% people’s fields
Time in hours
60 Figure 1 Average time for collecting fuelwood Figure 2 Access to firewood
6111 Source: Field survey, 2002 Source: Field survey, 2002

Boiling Point No 49 2003 27
1111 In areas where there is no access to groups which summarizes the implica- and snacks. It was reported that even
2 community forests, women would go tions of micro-hydro plants (MHP) for men would get involved in preparing
3 to the government-owned public forest men and women. tea and light snacks with biogas
4 – with access to all – or to privately- Looking at Table 2, it can be stoves, which was not the case with
5 owned forest far away from the village observed that MHP has positive impli- traditional stoves. However, the bio-
6 once or twice a month to collect high cations for everyone, especially for gas stoves were only used as a com-
7 quality firewood. Thus, I observed that reducing women’s labour and time plementary stove to the traditional
8 the deforestation was not directly spent in processing activities. It also stoves and could not fulfil the variety
9 related to the consumption of firewood indicates that women’s work has of cooking needs of local women. For
10 at local level. There could have been increased both in the morning and at instance, they needed to use traditional
1 some other reasons for deforestation night, through access to electric light. stoves for cooking big meal during rit-
2 like commercial logging or selling the However, some women have found uals and festivals. In addition, the bio-
3 firewood in market place. that they have more time for rest and gas stoves frequently break down due
4 Figure 2 shows the different access leisure with access to micro-hydro for to inadequate gas production. This
5 of firewood to the women in one of milling. With micro-hydro, women no caused them more troubles in cooking
6 the village in Kavre district. longer need to fill up the kerosene and sometimes it destroyed the taste of
7 As shown in the diagram, the high- lanterns and lights in each room, thus food. The women’s group further
8 est percentage of women have access their time and work was reduced. reported that burning firewood in the
9 to firewood in their own fields and Women have gained access to some traditional way was essential during
20111 income generating and social activities, the winter to warm their houses, and
forests, and in the community forest.
1 such as incense making and adult liter- the firewood smoke made them less
The second highest percentage of
2 acy, with the lights available at night.
women get firewood from their own susceptible to insects.
3 Similarly, there was a positive
fields and forest. I found that the fod- Similarly, despite the convenience
4 change in women’s and men’s attitude
der grasses collected from around the of micro-hydro milling, women some-
5 towards women’s mobility and parti-
fields were used to fulfil their fire- times liked to use the traditional way
6 cipation through the awareness raising
7 wood requirements as well. The tops of processing such as dhiki (a tradi-
implemented by the Rural Energy tional way of hulling grain) and janto
8 of the grasses were used for livestock
Development Program (REDP). This
9 feeding and the residue sticks were (a traditional way of grinding grain),
also helped in the eradication of a gam-
30 used as firewood for cooking. It was and the water mill for hulling and
bling habit of men, with positive impli-
1 interesting to note that around 16 per grinding grain, since grain and flour
cations for women and their culture.
2 cent of the women steal firewood from would be tastier than that from the
Similarly, MHP has some benefits
3 private forests; this was because they power or the diesel mill. In addition,
for men and the overall household. For
4 had neither their own forests nor women preferred to use dhiki and janto
instance, men felt more comfortable
5 access to public forests. Women were holding social gatherings with electric for hulling and grinding small quanti-
6 sometimes at risk while stealing fire- light. There was some possibility for ties of grain, which would be more
7 wood from other people’s forests. A men to become involved in income- costly to bring to the mill. Hence, the
8 few women bought firewood from generating activities. In addition, local women were using the traditional
9 other people’s forests. women’s saved labour and time could and alternative technologies as com-
40111 be used for other household activities plementary to each other.
1 Gender implications of (such as more time for child care) or Women felt distanced with AETs
2 alternative energy involvement in some income-generat- since they were not much involved in
3 technologies ing and social activities as well. the planning and management of such
4 Overall, the analysis indicates more technologies. For instance, male mem-
5 Have alternative technologies made
women’s lives easier and better? positive implications of MHP for bers of a family mainly made the deci-
6 women than for men. sions on the location and installation
7 Answering this question is a tricky one.
Both men and women have access of biogas plants, while women often
8 Findings
to alternative energy technologies had to operate the plants carrying
(AETs). My fieldwork experience in During the focus group discussions water and dung, and mixing them
Nepal has provided me with a greater with the users’ group for biogas plant together. In addition, women were not
insight into how women feel about and improved cooking stoves (ICS), aware of the full potential of biogas
3 AETs, and their adoption of technol- the women’s group reported that the plants, such as utilizing the biogas
4 ogy. There is no doubt that women wish biogas stoves and ICS were very con- slurry for making good compost. In
5 to have access to technologies like bio- venient means of cooking. the same way, more men were
6 gas, improved stoves and micro-hydro Women felt that these technologies involved in construction of the ICS,
7 electricity. Men and especially women reduced smoke diseases such as eye and women were not given a chance to
8 have benefited from technologies such irritation and headaches, and reduced address any technical problems con-
9 as these in many ways. Table 2 shows the work involved in cleaning and col- cerning their use. Sometimes women
60 a gender analysis matrix (GAM) con- lecting firewood. Biogas stoves were destroyed the stoves because they did
6111 ducted with a few men and women’s especially easy for cooking light meal not find them convenient. The main

28 Boiling Point No 49 2003
1111 Table 2 Gender analysis matrix: micro-hydro user’s group
Labour Time Resources Culture
4 Women Positive Positive Positive Positive
Reduced workload for Saved time for rice hulling Access to income Positive change
processing (rice hulling and grinding grains generatingand social in women’s and
6 and grinding grains) Saved time for filling the activities (incense men’s attitude
7 Reduced work as no kerosene and lighting making,and adult for women’s
8 longer needed to light Increased time for rest literacy, poultry mobility
9 using kerosene in every and leisure keeping) Eradication of
10 room gambling and
Negative drinking habits
Increased work with of men
2 the lighting in the
3 morning and in the
4 evening
5 Men Positive Positive Positive Positive
6 No change in men’s work More time for chatting Possibility for income Increased
7 and gatherings with generation through saw gatherings and
8 electric light mill and poultry entertainment
9 Access to information Negative
through radio and Young men
television hanging around
1 radios and
2 televisions
Household Positive Positive Positive Positive
4 Women’s labour saved Women’s time saved Possibility to increase Positive attitude
5 for other activities for other activities income of men and
6 Possibility for irrigation women
7 Negative
8 Decreased opportunities
for young labour
30 Source: Field survey, 2002
2 problem they identified was that the Conclusion in energy-related activities. However,
3 smoke bounced back into the kitchen AETs have not been a substitute for
4 instead of passing out through the Women have key roles in managing the traditional technologies for a num-
5 chimney. There were no training pro- household energy systems, and are ber of reasons. For instance, women
6 grammes for women on any repair and more affected by rural energy alterna- still preferred to use those indigenous
7 maintenance activities, and women tives than men. Different alternative technologies such as dhiki / janto, and
8 had to rely on technicians (men) or energy technologies have provided for traditional stoves as an integral part of
9 other male members of the family for men, and especially for women, in their livelihood, to fulfil their various
40111 any small repairs. terms of saving their labour and time energy needs. Adoption of AETs by
1 women was not very positive due to
2 their limited involvement in planning
3 and management of such technologies.
4 There was a shift in control of energy
5 services after having access to tech-
6 nologies, since women were not able
7 to repair AETs.
9 References
1 Batliwala, S., and Reddy, A.K., 1996: Energy
for Women & Women for Energy:
Engendering Energy and Empowering
Women, Brainstorming Meeting of
4 ENERGIA: Women and Energy Net-
5 work, University of Twente, Enschede,
6 The Netherlands, June 4–5, 1996.
7 Kelkar, G. (1995) ‘Gender Analysis Tools’,
8 Wood Energy News, Vol. 10 (2).
9 Cecelski, W.E. (1995) ‘From Rio to Beijing:
60 Figure 3 Focus group discussion with ICS and biogas users’ group Engendering the Energy Debate’, Energy
6111 Source: Field survey, 2002 Policy, Vol. 23, pp.561–575, UK.

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