In the aftermath of the energy crisis in the 1970s, the world's policymakers addressed the energy-gender inequality issue and attempted to resolve the energy bias and meet women's economic needs. Focusing on gender equality is core to sustainable development. No country has accomplished progress after a subsistence amount without full and equal participation of women and men. Global GDP is also expected to rise by up to $28 trillion by 2025 if women participate in the economy at the same rate as men.
Energy researchers argue that gender is crucial to endorse thorough attention to sustainable energy. Nonetheless, the female populations experience various impediments to reliable access to energy. Existing literature reveals that the energy sector has emerged to be among the highest industries to encounter gender inequality around the globe. Bangladesh is also no exception to this trend.
The landmark success of achieving 100% electrification does not guarantee gender equality in Bangladesh's energy sector. For instance, many rural women are responsible for collecting and managing traditional fuels like biomass and fuelwood. Underproductive and inadequately ventilated clay stoves generally release fine particles, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, AND dioxins alongside other carcinogens. Respiratory infections and chronic lung disease for women are some of the most considerable direct health hazards in Bangladesh.
Discriminatory social attitudes and the power to negotiate in terms of gender can influence access to energy for women. Moreover, lack of energy access hinders the skill development opportunities of women for the building blocks to run business, lessen restrictions on development, raise their sustainability and offer them greater control over enterprise operation in Bangladesh.
Access to modern energy is key to achieving women's empowerment (SDG-5). Rural women, who are primarily responsible for the bulk of household work, can make better decisions and run businesses better than men in many cases. Literature shows that women are 9 to 23 percentage points more likely to get jobs excluding the bounds of household due to electrification. It also proves that women are more empowered and contribute more to decision-making in households in electrified Bangladesh. So, this gender inequality delays the development process of many countries and reducing the gender gap can aid several countries to attain socio-economic developments.
The Bangladesh government aims to safeguard people who sustainably procure energy. It is of great importance for policymakers to acknowledge the significant link between gender and sustainable energy. Incorporating the points of views of different genders into energy projects, policy and planning is crucial to secure the efficacy of the decisions. Among others, the government could emphasise the expansion of safer cooking choices like improved stoves with advanced technology across the country. Women's exposure to household air pollutants can additionally be reduced by using clean energy equipment.
The government could also take the necessary steps to familiarise rural women with renewable energy technologies, such as biogas digesters and energy-saving biomass stoves for household-related works. This would allow the women to save time to concentrate more on small businesses and achieve economic gains. The government could further broadcast various awareness programmes on television and radio in reducing gender gaps and achieving sustainable goals.
Dr Sakib Bin Amin is an Associate Professor (Economics) at North South University (Bangladesh). He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Durham University (UK). His research focuses on Energy and Tourism Policy in Developing Countries.