Women, Energy and Water in the Himalaya

The lives of women all over the world are intimately connected to energy and water. Yet women in the Himalayan region continue to face hardships related to the endless cycle of fetching firewood and water, and cooking in smoky environs, causing enormous damage to the environment, triggering widespread harm to human health, and resulting in serious social deprivation. It is almost impossible to involve women in new livelihood opportunities without reducing the time they spend in collecting and managing the water and energy needs of their households. 

To tackle this issue, ICIMOD and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) executed a two-year project with financial support from the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA). The project focused on enabling women to participate fully and effectively in the planning and implementation of household water and energy initiatives by building their capability to organize themselves and to identify and prioritize their own needs. 

What was striking was that a few simple technologies in the water and energy sectors made a marked difference in the lives of the women, their families, and their communities, even within the short time frame of the project by meeting their practical needs (immediate survival activities to escape from drudgery and poverty), as well as in addressing their productive (income generation) and strategic (empowerment) needs. Women developed their own solutions to their water and energy needs, and many were able to use the time saved to generate income. Women have operated a technology demonstration centre from the technologies they adopted for the benefit of other women. Some have emerged as energy entrepreneurs, for example, as liquid petroleum gas depot managers, and producers and sellers of solar dryers and improved cooking stoves. The publications will be useful to policy makers, planners, and development specialists in national institutions, NGOs, and donor agencies engaged in engendering development and empowering women, especially in mountain areas. 

The experiences and lessons learned from this project have been encapsulated in three publications, including policy guidelines, a training manual, project learning, and in a documentary film which hopes to help policy makers and rural development practitioners replicate and upscale similar projects in their own regions. 

Overall objective of this project was to promote the integration of women in decision making, and in the implementation and management of household energy and water initiatives that better reflect their roles and needs, and are environmentally sound. 

The project was carried out with Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India and the Centre for Rural Technology (CRT/N), Nepal.

For more information, contact:
Bikash Sharma
Senior Environmental Economist