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Gender mainstreaming in India’s energy sector

In this second of a two part blog series focusing on Energy, LEDS GP Energy Working Group Co-chair Philip Killeen identifies applications for gender mainstreaming the energy sector in Madhya Pradesh, India. 

Key messages

  • While the Indian state Madhya Pradesh has emerged from years of economic stagnation, economic opportunities remain limited for women in rural areas.
  • Targeting these communities, the Enhancing energy based livelihoods for women micro-entrepreneurs initiative is changing how women use energy as an instrument to enhance their livelihoods.
  • The initiative is financed by the Asian Development Bank and informed by the ENERGIA gender methodology for energy sector planning. ENERGIA aims to reduce the risk of gender inequalities resulting from project activities—its ‘do no harm’ principle safeguards the interests of both women and men. With a clear focus on economic and social empowerment, it supports sustainable, safe energy solutions to ease women’s and men’s work burdens and improve access to health services and education.
  • This successful application of the ENERGIA methodology demonstrates that gender frameworks are most effective when introduced in the design phase of low emission development strategy (LEDS) projects, rather than during implementation.


Madhya Pradesh at a glance

Madhya Pradesh, India’s second largest territory, has a population of over 75 million people. The state’s economy has historically lagged behind the rest of the country, being primarily dependent on an undiversified and underdeveloped agrarian economy. GDP growth in Madhya Pradesh lagged well behind the greater Indian economy, growing only 3.5% annually from 1999 to 2008.[1] Targeting this economic stagnation, a suite of policies were introduced promoting economic diversification, public health, and education. As a result the economy of Madhya Pradesh has recovered significantly, with GDP growth rising to 12% in 2012.[2]

While this economic growth is certainly impressive, its impact has been notably asymmetric, with certain demographic groups and economic sectors unaffected or underaffected. Comprising 47% of the state’s total geographic area, Madhya Pradesh’s agricultural sector remains broadly characterized by the use of nonmechanized cultivation methods and production of low value crops. With limited access to modern irrigation systems, the state remains heavily dependent on predictable weather patterns. This predictability has been negatively impacted by climate change, with threats of extreme rainfall, drought, and flooding now a constant concern.[3] Representing 53% of the state’s agricultural labor force, women are particularly adversely affected by these factors.

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Investment Program

Seeking to promote economic alternatives for these communities, in 2011 the Asian Development Bank launched the Madhya Pradesh Energy Efficiency Improvement Investment Program, the first tranche of which (US$200 million) was categorized as Effective Gender Mainstreaming.[4] This funding facility aimed to enable power distribution companies to supply a quality 24 hour power supply to rural households by improving the operational efficiency of electricity distribution in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh.

The program successfully:

  • achieved an improved upstream 33 kV system
  • separated the power supply to agricultural pumps and households (feeder separation) and installed a high voltage distribution system
  • installed meters and new household connections, and improved the quality of supply
  • improved access to business development services for women’s microenterprises
  • built up the capacity of women’s self help groups.

A Technical Assistance on Enhancing energy based livelihoods for women micro-entrepreneurs (US$2 million) was attached to tranche 1. These funds were used to deliver tangible benefits to women by improving their access to energy resources, services, and energy based livelihoods through women’s self help groups and micro-entrepreneurs.

Targets included:

  • 500 women’s self help groups trained as trainers in gender inclusive energy services and business development services
  • over 20,000 home based women micro-entrepreneurs trained in efficient use of electricity for improving their businesses.

The training provided through this initiative covered efficient use of energy and how to develop a business plan, enabling women to start their own electricity based businesses. The women entrepreneurs fabricated commercial products, including pottery, bangles, compact fluorescent light bulbs, paper cups, and garments for sale to intermediaries or at local markets (Table 1).[5]

Application of the ENERGIA gender methodology

A thorough social and gender impact analysis was required in the planning stages of the ‘Enhancing energy based livelihoods for women micro-entrepreneurs’ initiative. To inform this effort, the Asian Development Bank applied the ENERGIA[6] methodology for gender sensitive energy sector planning.

The following key features of the initiative were based on the ENERGIA methodology.

  • Household surveys—showed that beneficiaries believe availability of a 24 hour power supply will result in children spending more time studying (60%), women spending less time on household tasks (30%), the purchase of electrical appliances to make life easier (28%), and people spending more time on leisure (24%).
  • Assessment survey—covered 1,000 female headed microenterprises at the outset of the project. The survey enabled the design of a demand based approach for expanding and/or starting up energy based micro-entrepreneurship.
  • Gender action plan—devised an inclusive (covenanted) plan focusing on building user awareness on safe and efficient use of electricity; building capacities of women micro-entrepreneurs and women’s self help groups; and developing female headed microenterprises.
  • Comprehensive training strategy and design—delivered in an integrated enterprise module informed by gender concerns linked to use of energy in both household and business activities. Training modules and instructional materials were prepared to ensure relevance and cultural appropriateness.
  • Quantitative impact evaluation—while qualitative information on project results is available, an ongoing impact evaluation will collect quantitative information to substantiate the qualitative analysis.
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Table 1: Achievements of ‘Enhancing energy based livelihoods for women microentrepreneurs’

Why was ENERGIA selected?

ENERGIA’s institutional approaches are relevant and appropriate:

  • the ‘do no harm’ principle safeguards the interests of both women and men
  • the methodology supports sustainable, safe energy solutions to ease women’s and men’s work burdens and improve access to health services and education
  • it has a clear focus on economic and social empowerment.

The Asian Development Bank’s experience in applying the ENERGIA gender methodology in Madhya Pradesh provides insights on how it could be used in other countries and contexts. Perhaps the most important lesson from this case study is that gender frameworks are most effective when introduced in the design phase of a LEDS project, rather than during implementation. This vital step helps to ensure initiatives take adaptable approaches to advancing the interests of women who will be affected, and that sufficient funding for capacity building, monitoring, and evaluation is put aside to accurately measure impact.

Learn more

To hear more about how the ENERGIA gender methodology was used in Madhya Pradesh, please access the webinar recording and related resources. If you are curious about potentially applying the ENERGIA gender methodology in your own country or context, please contact the Energy Working Group through the LEDS GP Remote Expert Assistance on LEDS (REAL) network.


  1. The Economist (2008) ‘Ruled by Lakshmi,’ The Economist 11 December.
  2. Lall, L. (2012) ‘Madhya Pradesh’s GDP goes up to 12 per cent,’ The Times of India 29 June.
  3. World Bank (2013) ‘India: Climate change impacts,’ World Bank, 19 June.
  4. At the Asian Develoment Bank, a project is assigned as Effective Gender Mainstreaming if outputs are designed to directly improve women’s equitable access to energy resources, services, and opportunities that contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  5. Kugler, C. (2015) ‘Madhya Pradesh: Connecting gender & energy in rural areas,’ Blog, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management 15 May.
  6. ENERGIA (International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy):

Photo: Asian Development Bank

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