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Participation in solar projects will lead to women empowerment

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Kolkata: If women in Indian villages start participating in solar electricity projects, planning and implementing maintenance they can challenge patriarchy and gender roles discrimination.

Karina Standal and Tanja Winther from the Centre of Development and Environment, University of Oslo, examined in a recent study how the introduction of electricity in new contexts (solar power) affected gender relations in rural communities in Uttar Pradesh in India and in Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

“In terms of empowerment, the women feel that access to solar electricity gave them an easier everyday life and sense of accomplishments in pursuing their roles as mothers and wives/daughters-in-law and the like. This is, of course, very important in raising their life quality,” Standal said in an email interaction from Norway.

Centred on community solar power plants (micro-grids) for generating livelihoods or household electricity in two UP villages and four in Bamiyan, the research revealed contrasting features in terms of inclusion of women in such projects and their ability to counter patriarchy.

The study was published in the Forum For Development Studies on January 20.

Standal elaborated that the Indian project provided women several benefits but did not elevate them to a position where they could actively challenge discriminatory gender relations. In the Afghan case female role-models trained and working as “solar engineers” meant that communities experienced the benefits of women working and receiving the education.

“The Indian case in mention did not have this element in the implementation. Rather, it saw it only useful to train men as ‘village operators’ with responsibilities for the solar equipment. In that sense, this project reinforces patriarchal structures that work to limit women’s role outside their home,” observed Standal.

What emerged was “when projects are carried out without women’s true and equal participation, as in the Indian case, there is lost potential in a more long-term empowerment to challenge discriminating gender roles”.

Standal said the Indian project did attempt at some female representation in Village Energy Committees that are responsible for the solar systems in their village and for the monthly payments from the villagers for the consumption, salary of the village operator, maintaining bank accounts, holding meetings and the like.

“However, the women did not participate in the Village Energy Committees, as they were not allowed to speak freely due to cultural restrictions on women,” Standal said, adding that this scenario “cannot be generalized to Indian villages implementing solar electricity in general”.

But the fact remains, both internationally and in the Indian context, that the issues and opportunities of gender equality and energy development have not been receiving enough attention, stressed Standal.

“Women (in the case studies) are only seen as important end-users and benefits are provided for them to have a better life within the existing patriarchal system,” said Standal laying strong emphasis on ensuring that “women are granted equal access to participation in such projects”.

“Participation (should be) at all levels and not reduced to certain areas to make the most of these energy projects.”

Standal said the Indian project was initiated by a private Norwegian company and executed as a public-private partnership between the company, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation).

“The Afghan case was initiated by the NGO Norwegian Church Aid in support with the Indian Barefoot College. Their model of training women as Barefoot Solar Engineers is very interesting and I think has had several added values to the project in terms of impact on gender relations and more opportunities for women,” concluded the researcher.

Adding from her own experience in the field, Indian environmental economist Joyashree Roy of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University, concurred.

“True inclusion of a stakeholder (women) from very beginning helps in getting them to change maker,” Roy said.(IANS)

NewsGram View-Indian women need empowerment and this should be achieved through any means. If this participation helps then the women should be encouraged to take part in such projects.

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#MeToo Movement Shows The Decaying Soul of India: Mahesh Bhatt

These are larger issues. The soul of the country is decaying. We are far away from what we claim to be. And cases like this only put spotlight on that," added the director

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Nana Patekat, Metoo, Women
#MeToo movement shows India's soul is decaying: Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt

On the one hand, Indians bow down to a goddess to pray and on another some people violate women. This dichotomy in India is creating a mess of things, says filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who feels Indians are far from what we claim to be.

“The #MeToo movement cannot be resolved through the court of public opinion. There are people standing up for something. I would say more power to women who scream from the rooftop about something wrong done to them — whether it is after 10 years or 20 or 50… It doesn’t make a difference,” Bhatt told IANS in an interview when he was in the city to promote “Jalebi”.

“You cannot deny the right to individuals to say what they say. But the question is whether the quotes are in sync with the legal system, which is based on a certain understanding. Are they in sync with this so-called enlightened new view that we have? If punitive action is not taken, the cynicism that nothing happens would be reinforced,” he added.

women
The dichotomy is what has made a mess of things.

 

The #MeToo movement in India started in September after Tanushree Dutta recounted an unpleasant episode with veteran actor Nana Patekar on the sets of “Horn ‘OK’ Pleassss” in 2008.

After that, a slew of controversies surrounding Vikas Bahl, Chetan Bhagat, Gursimran Khamba, Kailash Kher, Rajat Kapoor, Alok Nath and Sajid Khan have emerged.

“There is only one thing you can’t use this #MeToo movement for (and that is) settling old relationship issues. You cannot categorise that.

“There is domestic violence which is there between married people or lovers. There can be sexual misconduct which can be tackled legally. But we are talking about sexual harassment which is another case. Women need to handle that very responsibly,” Bhatt said.

The director feels it is time to ask a “deeper question”.

#MeToo, women
Bollywood actress Tanushree Datta presents a creation by designer Sanjeet Anand at the Bangalore Fashion Week in Bangalore, India. VOA

“During Durga Puja, you bow down to the deity which was created by this great story of male gods putting their best to create her so that she can kill the demon to save the world and heaven from the wrath of that demon. It is time to understand that you support the woman and let her retain her dignity or she will perish.

“The question is, ‘Do you really view women in the form of the goddess you worship in the temple’. Because in private life you violate them.”

He said “there is a kind of dichotomy”.

“The dichotomy is what has made a mess of things. We have an idea about ourselves and the reality is quite different from the idea. Look at what you are doing to women. There are issues which cannot be resolved themselves within a time frame of a week, a month or a year.

Nana Patekat, Metoo, Women
#MeToo movement is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. #MeToo spread virally in October 2017. Flickr

“These are larger issues. The soul of the country is decaying. We are far away from what we claim to be. And cases like this only put spotlight on that,” added the director, who has helmed projects like “Arth”, “Saaransh”, “Naam”, “Sadak”, “Junoon” and “Papa Kahte Hain”.

As a film producer, how does he ensure a safe workplace for women?

Also Read: India’s #MeToo Movement Makes The Most Glamorous Industry Its Subject Of Scrutiny

“Human beings are vulnerable to all this and more. But I can only say that you lead by example. You set the tone about what the morality of the house is going to be. I have enough women force. I have my own daughter (Pooja), who is a tough chick. I have my sister who is hands-on. I have my niece.”

“If there is any outrage anywhere, I think there are enough pockets to bring out what is happening,” added Bhatt , who will be back as a director with “Sadak 2”. (IANS)