In order to lift the income levels of poor families and communities, energy policies and projects must be targeted to reach those who are most in need. In many contexts, it is women who suffer the most from conditions of extreme poverty.
Of the 1.2 billion people living on the equivalent of one dollar a day, 70% are women. Because of their traditional responsibilities for collecting fuel and water, in many developing countries women and girls would benefit most from access to improved energy services.
The time and physical effort expended by women and girls in gathering fuel and carrying water seriously limits their ability to engage in educational and income-generating activities. Literacy rates and school enrolment levels
in many developing countries are dramatically different for men and women. Much of women’s time is taken up with difficult and time-consuming chores related to producing and processing food without mechanical or electrical equipment and with cooking without clean-burning fuels and energy efficient appliances.
Many women and girls also suffer from health problems related to gathering and using traditional fuels. In addition to the time and physical burdens involved in gathering fuel, women suffer serious long-term physical damage from strenuous work without sufficient recuperation time. Women are faced with the danger of falling, threats of assault or other physical harm, and snake bites during fuel gathering. They are also exposed to a variety of health hazards from cooking over poorly ventilated indoor fires, including respiratory infections, cancers and eye diseases.
Smoke from poorly ventilated indoor fires accounts for close to 2 million premature deaths per year. Reduced drudgery for women and increased access to non-polluting power for lighting, cooking and other household and Productive purposes can have dramatically improved effects on women’s levels of empowerment, education, literacy, nutrition, health, economic opportunities and involvement in community activities. These improvements in women’s lives can, in turn, have significantly beneficial consequences for their families and communities