Traditionally, the development community has considered energy projects as gender-neutral due to a poorly informed assumption that the challenges in the energy sector impact the sexes similarly. This genderblind approach to policies, programmes, and projects in the energy sector of developing economies has generated a gap in which women and men are not each distinctly recognized when it comes to patterns of demand, production, and use.
When budgets and public investment programmes in the energy sector are being envisaged, the policy and practice community must keep evidence-informed, gender-specific considerations in perspective. One tool that helps this exercise is gender budgeting, which is a method by which to focus explicitly on how public resources are spent and how equality between women and men could be achieved when it comes to the collection and use of budgetary resources.
A slightly different approach to achieve this is also offered through gender audits. In this case, tools are developed to help assess how far organizations have institutionalized gender equality into their plans, budgets, and projects.
Energy systems must consider the diverse roles of women and men and how such diversity could bring about more successful macroeconomic, welfare and social outcomes. There is ample literature that highlights the need for gender mainstreaming in the energy sector.
What does gender-aware budgeting in the energy sector look like?
The starting point usually is the realization that government budgets are not gender-neutral. Energy sector plans and financing will have different bearing on women and men in diverse settings, for example, rural versus urban. This is intuitive because in most developing countries, women and men have different responsibilities, in turn requiring different budgetary support.
In this context, gender-aware budgeting has the potential to promote gender equity and gender mainstreaming in the energy sector. But it requires analysis of how funding for programmes and projects is spent and who gets to benefit, by gender. Gender-aware budgeting doesn’t necessarily mean separate budgets for each sex. Also, this approach doesn’t necessarily result in an increase in the amount spent on a certain sex. This approach is just one way to recognize how, by a slight change in accounting systems and processes, spending on women’s and girls’ energy needs could help reduce the various forms of inequalities.
The actual gender-aware budgeting process involves three main steps. First, gender analysis helps determine gender gaps in ongoing and planned energy programmes. The gender-responsiveness of past and existing energy sector budgets (and their outcomes) should be assessed for policy lessons. The adequacy of budget allocation for a particular energy need (such as access for marginalized communities) should also be evaluated. This involves studying whether disbursed budgets are being spent as planned, and if not, what needs to be done.
The second step is to ensure gender-disaggregated data and indicators for budgeting. This is information that will remain available over the medium to longer term so that outcomes and impacts can be measured. Such genderdisaggregated data help track progress on genderspecific goals and targets for Sustainable Development Goal 7.
The third and final step is to undertake costing for gender equality and equity in the energy sector— estimating financial costs and resources for energy sector interventions to show gendered allocations.
This article is an excerpt of: Vaqar Ahmed, Gender Budgeting in the Energy Sector, published in: Energy and Gender in Asia. A regional review (Teri, 2021).