A working paper from Cambridge University’s Energy Policy Research Group decisively concludes that to fully realise the benefits of electricity to the socio-economic empowerment of women, the quality of the electricity provided is far superior to counting electrified households in determining progress in gender parity. Ashish Kumar Sedai, Rabindra Nepal and Toraj Jamasb’s paper titled ‘Electrification and Socio-Economic Empowerment of Women in India’ assesses the causal effect of access and hours of electricity on women’s empowerment. The study finds that just having access to electricity is not enough to empower women and the quality of electricity affects women’s positions on all four dimensions that enable empowerment; specifically women’s labour force participation, education, health, and exposure to electronic media. A high quality energy supply is a central tenet of MRDF’s model, as budding entrepreneurs need to have confidence in the electricity in order to base their livelihoods on it. Every villager that connects to our solar mini-grids receives 24*7 electricity as well as a three-phase connection. In fact, the 7.5 HP rice huller that we recently installed in Longkei village was the first three-phase connection in all of Mon district, testament to the unparalleled level of service we intend to provide in the region.
Furthermore, the study argues that “electrification alone is unlikely to ensure significant progress in important dimensions of women’s empowerment, in particular, for decision-making ability and economic freedom. Sustained efforts in improving women’s earning opportunities, education, [and] household income […] are important for improving their agency and empowerment. These enabling factors can be improved in other ways besides electrification.” This re-enforces MRDF’s consistent view that electricity access is just the beginning, and we engage deeply with the tribal communities and local entrepreneurs to ensure that the rewards of electricity access are fully realised. We also specifically target women entrepreneurs to help with incubation, further demonstrating the socioeconomic benefits of the work we do.
The link to the full paper can be found here: https://www.eprg.group.cam.ac.uk/eprg-working-paper-2012/