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4. Placing gender

4. Placing gender

Margaret Skutsch

4.1. Placing gender

Understanding the WID/GAD matrix

1975 was declared the International Year of Women by the United Nations. The first UN Conference on Women and Development was held in Mexico City in 1975 under the motto 'Equality, Development and Peace'. At this conference, the objectives for the first UN Decade of Women (1976-1985) were set: equality between the sexes was to be achieved within the framework of changed relations between North and South. In 1985, to mark the end of the first Women Decade, a second UN Conference was held in Nairobi. On this occasion, a much larger number of women from the South attended and made their voices heard. The third UN Conference on Women and Development, will soon be held in Beijing in September 1995. What have twenty years of Women and Development brought us? What has been achieved, and what is still lacking?

There are many different approaches to the 'women and development' issue. This paper aims to give an overview of these different approaches and relate them to the energy sector. As we will see, different approaches have different implications for the kind of energy policy that is adopted and the energy interventions that are selected. Note that the approaches are not placed in or implied to represent a hierarchy of correctness. Instead, attention is directed to what is perceived as 'appropriate' to different situations in different countries at any point in time.

The paper has the following structure: first, an historical overview of approaches in the 'women and development' debate is presented (2). The debate started off in the early seventies with different groups within the women in development (WID) movement, with special emphasis on women, environment and development (WED), and has gradually developed along the lines of the gender and development (GAD) approach. Next, the theoretical framework outlined is applied to the energy sector. Which findings are especially relevant to the energy sector, and what does this imply for the energy policy that is adopted? Finally, an extended bibliography with references for further reading is presented.

From WID to GAD: an historical overview

Women in Development

Over the last twenty years, the subject of women and development has received increasing attention from both scientists and practitioners. Since the early seventies, donors and NGOs have regarded women as a special target group and have directed aid towards them in various ways. The mode of aid delivery has been influenced by dominant analytical approaches towards the subject of women and development. Throughout the years, there has been a progression in thinking. However, this did not include a dramatic shift of paradigm: different approaches reflect different view points and angles rather than different dogmas. Today, many different approaches can be seen in the field. This section distinguishes between various approaches and gives an overview of the 'cycling of ideas' in order to enable us to identify the thinking behind policies and projects in the field of women and development.

Different phases within the women in development (WID) movement can be identified (Moser, 1989). The first idea, which came even before the official recognition of women as a special target group, was to start special programmes for women, which where primarily welfare oriented; they were designed to assist women in their traditional tasks, in the reproductive sphere. Programmes were aimed at women's practical needs like health, nutrition and family planning, but not at making women self-sufficient. Women were seen as passive recipients, as victims of underdevelopment. This charitable approach was present long before WID became fashionable, in missionary development work during the colonial period, for example.

In the mid seventies the notion of equity between men and women became important. It was recognised that almost all aid had unconsciously gone to men, because they were thought to be heads of the households and, according to this way of thinking, helping the households meant helping the women as well. This view now proved too simple: many households appeared to be headed by women instead of men and it became apparent that the trickle-down of benefits to women did not occur as expected. Various international conferences, among which the UN Conference (1975) mentioned earlier, were held, which succeeded in raising consciousness and placing women's issues more firmly on the agenda of donor agencies. Two new women's agencies were created under the UN umbrella: UNIFEM and INSTRAW. Resolutions were made by donors to treat men and women on an equal basis in their projects, for example in agriculture, and address the strategic needs of women in addition to their practical needs 1. In practice, many difficulties were experienced in doing so. All in all, the equity approach represented a political move, initiated by feminist movements in the USA, and was not all that popular in most developing countries.

1 Practical needs refer to the concrete circumstances women have to deal with whereas strategic needs are derived from the subordination of women en relation to men (Moser. 1989).

The basic needs approach took the view that provision of basic needs to poor people would increase their ability to develop themselves. When the donors adopted this strategy, more funds were directed to the welfare of the poorer strata in society. Women were seen as primary beneficiaries, and both women-specific and women-integrated projects were implemented, most of them targeted to meet practical needs rather than strategic needs. Many studies were also made at this time to document the situation of women, particularly in rural areas. Most of the donor agencies set up special women-in-development bureaux within their central administrations to monitor such developments and to stimulate consciousness within their organizations. The women's issue in development circles thus became more and more stripped of its originally feminist nature (the equity approach) and became inextricably linked with poverty alleviation in the South (Hausler, 1993).

Taking the basic needs approach as a starting point for their policy, donors began to hold the view that women should be included in projects on efficiency grounds: poverty alleviation can be achieved more efficiently when women are included from the start. Involvement of women was no longer considered morally correct only, but practically important as well. After all, women were doing most of the work in agriculture, so they should deliberately be integrated into ongoing projects. This approach is also called the instrumental approach, because it sees women as human resources for development. The term mainstreaming is used to indicate that women should be integrated into general projects for practical needs, on a par with men, in addition to having special projects for themselves.

The last phase identified in the WID approach is that of empowerment. In contrast with the other views, this view has mainly been inspired by Southern women. Historically based inequalities have to be broken by strengthening and extending the power base of women. Policies and programmes will have to meet the strategic needs of women to make a change for the better, including land rights, land titles, access to resources, education and employment. The concept of empowerment concerns the general emancipation of women. This line of thought is further pursued in the concept of autonomy, in which the equity and independence of women are the objectives of projects and programmes.

Women, Environment and Development

Women, Environment and Development (WED) as a theme came up in the early seventies, in the context of the debate on Southern women's roles in economic development. The accelerating global economic problems, the debt crisis, the increasing environmental destruction and the overall feminization of poverty in the South started off a debate on the specific and cumulative effects of these processes on the poor, and especially on women. The WED approach was initiated from within environment-related disciplines such as forestry (fuelwood energy) and agriculture. At that time, there was an increasing awareness of the effects of environmental degradation worldwide, marked for example by the publication of the study of the Club of Rome in 1972, in which the long term effects of population growth, production growth, exploitation of mineral resources and pollution were combined in a number of future scenarios. In that same year, a UN Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm. On this occasion, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) was called into being. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (better known as the Brundtland Commission after its chairman) forwarded its report. The Commission advocated the need for the world to move toward sustainable development which was defined as: 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. The Commission also initiated the idea of holding a world conference in which both environmental and developmental problems would be addressed. In 1992, this UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was held in Rio de Janeiro. A major parallel event, the Non Governmental Organization Forum (Global Forum) in which over 3,200 NGOs participated, also took place in Rio. It is in this context, that the WED approach took a firm shape.

Jackson notes that WED differs from earlier work in WID in the following ways: 'it (WED) is not led by academics, it is very anecdotal... and not concerned to establish c/ear evidence or strong arguments but it takes its position as self-evident and it is characterized by a strong presumption that women have an affinity with the environment' (1993, p.1948). Rural women are recognized as important victims of environmental degradation. The effects of deterioration hit women hardest: the subsistence of their families and households, for which they are held responsible, is endangered. As women develop new coping strategies to continue to carry out their survival tasks, their work load is often increased. Take the example of energy supplies. 75% of rural energy supplies (and 90% in Africa) comes from biomass such as fuelwood, crop residues and manure. Fuel collection, as long as it is not commercialized, is mainly a task for women, with some help from the children. As the ecological situation deteriorates because of deforestation, women have to spend more time and (human) energy collecting fuel. Depending on the ecological characteristics of the area in which they live, women may spend up to five hours a day on fuel collection (Dankelman & Davidson, 1987). New coping strategies, for example the use of alternative energy supplies as dung and crop residues, can lead to further deterioration of the environmental situation by affecting the soil fertility. The poor in the South have no choice but to destroy their own environment: they are trapped in a vicious circle.

Apart from characterizing women as the main victims of environmental degradation, WED emphasizes the special bond that exists between women and the environment: women are seen as the privileged bearers of the knowledge nature has provided them with. In this view, women are assumed to be caring, nurturing and selfless beings committed to both future generations and the environment. Local women, environmental managers as such, have taken the lead in environmental protest actions. The Indian Chipko movement is one of the most quoted examples, as is the Kenyan Green Belt Movement. The WED approach is propagated by many NGOs, both Southern and Western based. Some key documents which demonstrate the features of WED thinking were produced at the NGO Forum of the 1985 UN Conference in Nairobi. Bottom-up, people-oriented development has to be stimulated in order to reach sustainable development, and women, with their 'healing hands', are prominent actors in this matter, according to this way of thinking.

A more radical line of thought within WED is pursued by the ecofeminists. In this concept, different factions of feminism, Southern critiques of these factions, spirituality and the ecology movement come together. Ecofeminism encompasses an important criticism of the Western industrial growth model of development, which has dominated the global scene for so many years. It is felt that both women and the environment have suffered from the effects of the maledominated growth model, and that an alternative path of development will have to be taken instead (Shiva, 1989). The concept of ecofeminism is based on the claim that there are connections between the oppression of nature and the oppression of women and that understanding these connections is necessary to understand the oppression of both. Feminist theory should include an ecological perspective, just as solutions to ecological problems must include a feminist perspective. The line of ecofeminism is pursued by the 'Development with Women for a New Era' (DAWN) network. This group of Southern-based female researchers, that first met in India in 1984, criticizes the Western development model from the experiences of poor women from the Third World. The group also criticizes the WID approach as being 'paternalistic'. DAWN formulated its own ideas regarding women's development within the framework of an alternative model of development, and presented these ideas at the UNCED Conference in 1992.

Gender and Development

In the past few years, the expression 'women in development' has gradually been replaced by the term 'gender' in the development literature. Instead of restricting itself to women only, a gender perspective takes into account the division of work and benefits between women and men: it aims for a conscious redistribution of these not only in productive activities but also within the household. Because men and women have different positions within the household and different control over resources, they do not only play different and changing roles in society, but also often have different needs. This role and need differentiation is the underlying rationale for gender analysis and planning, which has as its long term goal the emancipation of women. The GAD approach tries to counter the almost universal tendency to make the following generalized assumptions, which are far from confirmed by empirical reality:

Gender analysis helps to undermine this short-sightedness by differentiating between needs and interests of both men and women. With regard to the third assumption, for example, evidence shows that in most low-income households in the Third World, women have a triple role: their work does not only include reproductive work, the childbearing and rearing responsibilities, but also productive work (secondary income earners) and community managing work, concerning the provision of items of collective consumption, undertaken in the local community in both urban and rural contexts (Moser, 1993). Although the tasks and responsibilities of women are not restricted to the reproductive sphere, their access to and control of resources such as land, trees, machines, credit etc., remains limited. Improving this access and control, which are now unequally divided between the sexes, concerns a strategic need of women, which can be identified by gender analysis.

Planning for low-income rural women in developing countries must be based on their interests, or, their prioritized concerns. Gender analysis tools are helpful instruments in identifying gender interests and needs. Gender analysis involves the collection of gender-disaggregated data, concerning:

and, in case of energy interventions:

Now that we have gained some insight into the various approaches to the subject of women/gender and development, let us consider the implications of these different ways of thinking for interventions (projects and programmes) in the energy sector.

Gender and Energy

The oil crisis in the early seventies ushered in an era of higher energy costs. This, and the rising awareness that energy sources are exhaustible, underlined the need for a more global energy planning. For developing countries, the picture is gloomy. These countries, including many oil exporters, need ever larger amounts of energy in the future owing to increasing population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation. In 1983 the World Bank estimated that developing countries needed to invest about 4% of their GDP annually in order to meet projected energy needs over the next ten years (Cecelski, 1987). However, so far the impact of higher energy costs has been softened by large reserves of 'free' wood and other biomass fuels (dung, crop residues). As mentioned earlier, 75 to 90% of total rural energy supplies comes from biomass in developing countries. Households are the largest users of biomass fuel, but many governments are now looking to biomass and wood cultivation and crop residues as new sources of energy for modern industry and transport as well. Overall, more than half of the total energy consumption of poorer countries is believed to consist of traditional fuels, especially wood.

Deforestation and desertification are among the most serious consequences of this reliance on 'free' biomass fuels'. Agricultural productivity falls since the growing use of tree, crop and animal residues decreases the soil fertility. Both crop yields and the capacity to support livestock are reduced. Men are forced to leave the land in search of seasonal work or work in the towns. These 'environmental refugees' swell urban populations and intensify the pressure on rural food and biomass resources. The 'rural energy crisis' hits women hardest (Agarwal, 1986). Women are largely responsible for subsistence food production and must increase their own labour input as productivity decreases. Time and effort spent on collecting fuel and water, two traditional tasks of women, increase. Cecelski: 'Women have little choice but to work more..., cut down on family living standards and try to squeeze more output and income out of the land, thereby contributing to the destruction of the ecological base- a vicious circle' (1987, p.42).

The energy crisis of biomass fuels in addition to the energy crisis of fossil fuels is now commonly understood. However, the integration of gender issues into the energy sector has not gone very far as yet. The vast bulk of energy assistance goes to the formal sector. Over 50% of the DAC2

Note that woodfuel gathering can not on its own be said to have had a major impact on deforestation in most places: agricultural clearance for cultivation coupled with grazing is today believed to be the main threat to forest

DAC is the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD countries energy budget is spent on conventional power projects including thermal plants hydroelectricity. For the World Bank, this figure is 80% (Skutsch, 1994a). Although 'sustainable development' has been adopted as an overriding goal by donor agencies, this has not led to a major shift in their energy policies towards relieving the daily energy problems of rural women. In accordance with Agenda 21, more emphasis is given to the choice of (cleaner) technology in new power plants, to upgrading technology in old plants and to building up energy institutions. Most new elements in the policy primarily concern the building of planning and management capacity in the energy sector of the recipient countries, but the development of new and/or renewable energy sources, although it certainly falls under the general umbrella of the new environmental aims, still receive a very small proportion of energy spending.

To support rural people in their daily struggles and to come to terms with the increasing shortage of wood energy, donor agencies have developed several strategies, which however take up a minor part of the energy budget'. Women have become the main target group for wood-saving stove programmes and eventually also for rural afforestation programmes. Donors however tend to define the subject of 'women and energy' as 'women and firewood': no attempt is made to look into other energy enduses than cooking and other household activities. Apart from these, there is also a large group of energy enduses which do not involve fuel but human energy -the larger part of which is women's energy- in exhausting physical tasks. These include, for example: the drudgery involved in fetching fuel and water, the transport of which mostly takes place away from the recognized transport network; the increase in female agricultural labour as a result of male migration and food processing (grinding grain). Cecelski (1992) concludes that one of the most damaging concepts in conventional energy studies is the exclusion of metabolic human (and animal) energy from consideration. Since the human energy provided by women to carry out their traditional tasks is left out of donor considerations, most of women's activities are not energy sector concerns. If the energy enduses mentioned above were taken into account, other types of projects would be identified (a technical intervention to reduce drudgery could then be considered as an energy project).

Programmes for household cooking technologies and other small scale alternative energy devices are supported by a large number of donors but their share in overall energy spending is very small, less than 2% of the DAC energy budget in the period 1979-1982 (Skutsch, 1994b)

References For Further Reading




4.2. Notes on different approaches

Welfare approach

Interventions for traditional female domestic tasks, with aim to reduce drudgery, often based on simplistic assumptions, such as:

Equity approach

Basic needs approach

Efficiency approach



Ecofeminism approach

Gender (GAD or GED) approach

4.3. Exercise on gender, development and energy

Many energy projects have a 'women's' component, or at least 'helping women' is mentioned as a specific goal. During the lecture it was pointed out that there have been many different approaches to women or to gender in development, which have rather different underlying philosophies and aims. This is reflected in the choices made at project level in a sector such as energy. A project which provides free improved cooking stoves to women is based on very different philosophy about women and their needs than one which gives a women's group land so that they can cultivate trees, for example, although superficially the idea may be to save natural forest resources in both cases.

On the attached pages you will find a table in which the different stages in thought about women (or gender) development are presented. They are shown roughly in the chronological order in which they were developed, but it was never the case that one approach displaced another and there are examples of most types to be found in projects operating today. In the second column, examples are given of the types of rural development projects typically implemented under each of these approaches. The third column is blank. The idea is to fill it with projects in the energy sector which might be considered for each of the approaches. This might be actual projects with which you are familiar, or it might be general types of projects.

This course is primarily concerned with wood and biomass energy, but you may want to add projects which deal with other forms of energy, particularly if one of the aims of such projects is to reduce dependence on wood and other biomass resources.

Authors' Note

The above exercise was worked on by all participants in country groups. The results of their exercise, along with explanations were presented somewhat later, after the participants had undergone some more instruction.

One of the completed exercise is reproduced below as an example of the participants' understanding of the subject.


Typical projects

Typical energy projects

Various WID approaches:

welfare approach

programmes aimed at practical needs, targeted especially to 'reedy' women, who are seen as passive recipients (charitable approach)

interventions for traditional female domestic roles and tasks

- nutrition classes

- sewing classes

- family planning

Energy conservation project e.g. 'Improved smokeless chulla'. This could help improve kitchen environment as well as the health of the person who is cooking (the woman) because research has shown that CO (carbon monoxide) inhaled during one hour cooking is equivalent to smoking of 20 cigarettes.

equity approach

This was essentially a political movement, stimulated mainly by developments in the USA (anti- discrimination in job opportunities, equal pay for equal work etc). It is based on the idea that women should participate equally with men in everything, thus they should be'mainstreamed' in all projects. Also, the equity principle stresses the need to meet women's strategic needs as well as their practical ones.

There have been very few projects or programmes which aim at equity. There are however policies such as compulsory education for girls as well as boys, abolition of dowry, equal right of inheritance which are equity based, but these may be difficult to implement in local situations.

Efficient use of traditional fuel and alternative energy e.g training conducted to create awareness among women about how to modify their own traditional chulha, need of using dry wood/biomass fuel which is efficient in terms of energy economics and readjusting their cooking method. This will give them time to do things which they want to do for themselves to help enjoy a happy and healthy life.

basic needs approach

Projects and programmes targeted to meet practical needs, on the basis that women need to have their basic living requirements fulfilled before they can participate in development activities

- Mother-and-child-care programmes should be designed targeting women as

- Vegetable gardening

- Provision of piped water

Agroforestry/homes forestry projects e.g projects beneficiaries to help ease their burden of wood collection.

efficiency approach

Projects and programmes both mainstreaming or integrating women into general projects, and special projects targeted only at women. The purpose is not especially to benefit women, but to involve them because unless women are involved, the projects designed for general community benefit are likely to fail.

- agricultural extension directly addressed to female members of households (as well as males)

- projects to support subsistence food cropping as well as cash crops

Energy (biomass energy) conservation and biomass energy augmentation projects aimed at the direct participation of women. In this case extension worker and target groups should contain a respectable number of women.

empowerment approach

Policies and programmes to meet strategic needs, which is to say education, legal and political rights, and women's use of these; also mobility, and self-confidence of women.

Most interventions for empowerment have been more at the policy level than at project level.

- land rights and inheritance

- rights for widows and divorcees

- quota systems for political committees and university entrance

Often the law is far in advance of the actual practice, because of conservative attitudes locally.

Formulation of legislation to ensure women's right to land and property. This will give freedom to women to take agroforestry, woodlot or farm forestry projects. By doing things in their own way and according to their own wishes they will be empowered with resources and confidence. This will create a national confidence which is a great achievement for developing and developed countries in terms of human resource development.

autonomy approach

The aim is to give women much more freedom and independence in all walks of life. Thus the autonomy approach is an extension of the empowerment idea, but in adopting it, a sponsor is saying that all programmes and projects, for all aspects of development, must pass certain equity/independence criteria, and none must worsen the position of women in the social, economic or physical spheres.

Projects are similar to those under empowerment, i.e. aiming to meet strategic needs of women. Officially, all projects of all types should be scrutinised to make sure that they do not involve a worsening of women's position.

Credit programmes designed to allocate money for women. After having "their money" they will be able to utilise it for other renewable energy technologies available around such as using solar dryers for their food drying if they think that is profitable in terms of money and time.

WED approach

Women have a special relationship with the environment, which is very different from men's, and more 'sustainable'. Programmes and projects should use their special skills and indigenous knowledge about the natural environment. In doing this, a better overall outcome can be attained, in addition to catering to the special needs of women.

- support to development should be directed through existing women's organizations; - support to programmes in which women are seen as the ones primarily responsible for environmental protection- the need for gender-sensitive data is increasingly being recognised, i.e. use of and access to resources needs to be carefully analyzed both at inter and at intra-household level. Such data is required in the approval process for project proposals.

Agroforestry, social forestry, strip plantation, homestead plantation and nursery projects aiming at 100% participation of women. Experience has shown that women has more in depth knowledge about fuel, fodder, timber and medicial plants. If the project is designed and managed by women it is more likely to be better than that of men.


Conventional development is bad for the environment and bad for women. Ecofeminism rejects the goal of economic growth, and proposes instead that women should manage the environment for subsistence, resulting in sustainability.

There are few operational projects of this kind, but the idea is to empower women to manage the natural resources, which will result in sufficiency in subsistence requirements, low consumption levels, low growth rate, and ecological balance.

Credit allocation aiming at 100% participation of women; i.e the target group should only be women for "Integrated", dairy, poultry, fishery and vegetable gardens coupled with biogas plants. This project is a profitable one. In such a case men have no other option but to share the household work.

GAD/GED approach

It is recognised that it is useless to tackle the problems of women without seeing them in their context: that of division of work, access and power between men and women. The whole system needs to be dealt with, not just the women's part. The subordination of women to men is generally the key; there is a need to clearly establish how and why access to and use of resources, and tasks, are divided M/F.

- use of gender analysis rather than emphasis just on women's role, when assessing projects: in using gender-disaggregated data the aim is not just to describe the situation (data analysis) but to explain it

- gender sensitive projects does not mean that special projects need to be set up but all projects need to consider their gender aspects.

Gender development training projects for energy planners to help sensitize them to the need to create a gender friendly environment.

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