Women in Energy: Best Practices in Clean Cooking across South Asia

Women in Energy: Best Practices in Clean Cooking across South Asia

May 15, 2020 | Proceedings from the SAWIE Webinar Series

Gender-responsive clean energy is widely acknowledged as a crucial lever for women’s empowerment and economic advancement. Translation of this recognition into concrete action has a huge transformative potential for the millions of rural women in South Asia who do not have access to clean energy and the opportunities it can bring for them as consumers and entrepreneurs. Some key aspects of this issue were tackled in a webinar the South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) platform hosted on May 15, 2020, on the theme ‘Women in Energy: Best Practices in Clean Cooking across South Asia’. SAWIE is a joint initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), aimed at promoting women’s empowerment and gender sensitization in the energy sector in South Asia region. USAID is supporting the SAWIE platform through its Greening the Grid – Renewable Integration and Sustainable Energy (GTG-RISE) initiative.

Key stakeholders from the energy sector — women leaders from the sector, senior representatives from the Government of India, program implementers, and subject matter experts — joined the webinar to share experiences and perspectives on promoting clean cooking technologies. Michael Satin, Director of the Clean Energy and Environment Office in USAID/India, moderated the discussion and highlighted the imperative to make clean cooking technologies accessible to women across South Asia. Anand Kumar, Secretary at the Government of India’s Ministry of Culture (formerly, Secretary, Ministry of New & Renewable Energy), reiterated this imperative in his keynote address. Calling renewable energy “the future to which we all belong”, Anand Kumar highlighted the role women must play at all levels in the energy sector, including as advocates for clean energy in their own homes.

The webinar enabled a rich exchange of information and insights on improving access to and uptake of clean cooking. There was consensus that there could be no ‘one size fits all’ solution for clean cooking, for example, in a country like India with its diverse regional cooking traditions and resources. The need, as Dinesh Jagdale, Joint secretary, Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, succinctly summarized was for “clean cooking solutions that meet diverse cooking needs and aspirations of end users”.

The question of what is needed to promote adoption of clean cooking was explored further through an in-depth presentation by Amit Jain, Senior Energy Specialist, at World Bank (WB). He presented insights from a WB initiative that had reached 2 million women in Bangladesh with clean cooking stoves. It underscored the need for winning the trust of women and the importance of person-to-person networks and engagement with local entrepreneurs. These insights resonated in the views of webinar’s other participants who stressed on keeping the rural women and their needs firmly in view when designing and promoting clean cooking solutions. Rural women must be treated as dignified customers and offered a range of clean cooking options that are affordable, necessitating a market-driven, customer-centric approach.

Collaboration between multiple stakeholders, public and private, is necessary to ensure clean cooking options reach rural homes. As a champion of women’s rights in the energy sector, SAWIE is focused on bringing all stakeholders together, supporting partnerships between NGOs and the private sector to scale up initiatives, and having women lead efforts to address women’s issues. As a next step, a white paper will be developed with policy recommendations for clean cooking in India and strengthening opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

The webinar presentation can be accessed here.