Power surge

Lessons for the World Bank from Indian women's participation in energy projects

21 September 2011 | Reports

The full report by the Bretton Woods Project is available as a PDF.


Women in communities across India are playing an increasingly important role in identifying energy needs, confronting projects they deem unsustainable, and contributing to alternatives in the context of India’s rapid expansion of the energy sector to drive economic growth. Furthermore, their participation is contributing to a gradual process of social change and women’s empowerment.

In this context, this paper highlights examples from visits to NGO projects, social entrepreneurs and social movements in five Indian states over the course of three months, as well as conversations with energy and women rights experts. It is divided in sections that draw attention to lessons in relation to a) women’s energy needs and access to energy; b) women confronting unsustainable energy projects from which they are excluded or do not accrue benefits; c) women’s participation in alternative energy projects that deliver community solutions and put alternative energy to productive use; and d) the contribution of women’s participation in energy projects to women’s empowerment and gender equality. The paper then highlights lessons drawn from field visits and what they mean for the development community with particular focus on the World Bank.


The Bank and other development agencies have increasingly touched upon the links between energy issues and women’s development and rights in their work. However, as the Bank’s energy strategy awaits approval, setting the course for the World Bank Group’s policy and programmes for the next decade, and the institution turns its focus to gender and development issues in the launch of the 2012 World Development Report, there is a need for greater alignment within the institution, a fleshing out of commitments that are on the table, and a mainstreaming of these important issues.

The full report by the Bretton Woods Project is available as a PDF.