Posted July 1996
See also: "Sub-regional Training Course on Women in Wood Energy Development"
The burden of providing traditional energy supplies for domestic use is commonly the responsibility of women. General trends towards higher woodfuel prices, lower woodfuel quality and reduced access to woodfuels increases their burden. Interventions in the energy sector such as landuse and fuel price reform often have disproportionately negative implications for women, especially those in the lower income groups. They have as yet insufficiently benefitted from the potential that wood energy development offers. In many countries of Asia the concerns of women are under-represented in shaping wood energy policies and strategies.
It is widely recognised that wood energy plays a part in the reproductive tasks that most women carry out, that is to say in the maintenance of the household. The development of cheap (or less time-consuming) and sustainable access to sources of wood energy and of woodfuel efficient cooking and heating devices will be of direct benefit to women in this role. But women increasingly also have energy needs in their productive, bread-winning tasks. Many women today depend on wood or other biomass energy for independent commercial activities such as food preparation for sale, or are employed in establishments which operate on a wood fuel base. Others are economically dependent on trading in fuelwood and charcoal. Moreover, where firewood is being sustainably produced either in woodlots or by planned offtake and management of natural forests by local communities, women very certainly are involved. The need to understand and to relate to women's needs in regard to these matters is thus of central importance in wood energy planning at all levels.
While appreciating that special projects specifically targeted at women can be beneficial in certain instances, RWEDP maintains that women's interests in the wood energy field can best be served by adopting a gender approach across all its activities. In this, women's role in wood energy supply and use is not considered separately but viewed in relation to men's (and children's) roles. The crucial factors to consider here are, who does what, and why; and who has access to and control over the sources of wood energy. This type of analysis needs to be applied both to the existing situation and to the implications of any planned wood energy interventions. Such types of gender analysis will provide the basis for the planning of ameliorative measures where necessary.
Many wood energy projects are intended to be of immediate value to women in assisting them to meet their day-to-day practical needs. There is, however, potential for wood energy projects to work towards assisting in meeting the strategic needs of women also, particularly with regard to establishing women's rights in the sharing of both responsibilities and benefits from community land resource management programmes related to firewood, and RWEDP will seek to support these rights.
RWEDP aims to stimulate the appreciation of gender issues in wood energy planning among all energy planners. It will support these aims through the development of training materials to cover both awareness raising on the need for gender analysis in energy planning, and on practical, operational tools for carrying out gender analysis and gender sensitive planning. Thus, the emphasis is not on special women's projects, but on providing general procedures for scanning and improving all wood energy projects, programmes and policies. RWEDP will endeavour to promote the use of these tools in wood energy planning organisations throughout the region by ensuring that suitable training is offered both at policy level and for implementer level, and will provide materials that can be used at national level for training field level workers. Furthermore, the training materials will be packaged in such a way that they will be accessible and usable by any organisation within the region which wishes to initiate gender and wood energy training itself.
RWEDP will also promote the active participation of women in wood energy planning at all levels, both by preparing training materials which demonstrate in a highly practical manner how women at village level can be approached and encouraged, and what the benefits of this are likely to be; and by encouraging discussion about the need for a women's viewpoint at district and national planning levels. RWEDP will support attempts of wood energy planning organizations and relevant ministries to institutionalize gender issues in their work.
Discussion on the best ways of formulating and implementing gender policies led to the following recommendations: