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The Intersectionality of Gender, Development and Access to Clean Energy

In 2014 as a part of our second phase of the Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN-WIN) we committed to investing $20 million in organizations that work specifically in providing access to clean energy for women. We found that many women struggled with their health, education and economic status as a result of limited access to energy, and that if we wanted to empower them it was vital that we addressed this. Throughout this work it became clear that access to clean energy is not a standalone issue, but one that overlaps and affects others.

For example:

  1. In health: Using modern energy reduces exposure to toxic pollutants caused by cooking in open fires, which kills more women every year than malaria, HIV/AIDs and lung cancer combined. Access to electricity also significantly increases the capability of hospitals and health facilities, for example by enabling them to store vaccinations and medicine in refrigerators, and allowing them to stay open for longer hours, helping to reduce the staggering statistic of a woman dying of childbirth every minute. One of our borrowers, SunFunder, is working to connect the 2.5 billion living off grid to be connected to electricity through solar power.

  2. In education: Many students in off-grid communities are limited to only doing work during the day. When they get home, they struggle to finish all their homework without proper lighting in the evenings. Through our investment in Essential Capital Consortium, we have supported social enterprises like Mobisol that produce and distribute affordable lighting appliances.

  3. In income generation: One in five people lacks access to energy, which means that besides being a moral imperative, increasing access to energy is also a smart business opportunity. In light of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, governments, investors, social enterprises are shifting their focus to lay the ground work to achieving these goals. Evidence from activity in rural off-grid communities across the world shows that enterprise development through extending energy access creates sustainable jobs. For example, a borrower of our, Off Grid Electric (OGE) has employed over 800 people in the past three years, the majority of which are women. (Pictured above is Keziah Kazi, an Installation Officer for OGE in Tanzania.)

  4. In sustainable development: Smoke produced from burning fuels and using dirty and inefficient kitchen appliances is the second biggest contributor to climate change. Our borrower, BIX Capital, is working to invest in clean household technologies to reduce such a burden on our environment.

By understanding theses interdependent relationships between gender, energy access and other sectors we can better address overall development challenges. At Calvert Foundation we are committed to further exploring and understanding these dynamics in order to maximize our impact and share these lessons with our community.

Check out our map to find out more about the organizations we are lending to that are working to provide access to clean energy.