Solar products such as lights and phone chargers mean that even those with little money can enjoy the benefits of electricity — from internet access to greater income-earning opportunities. But in our study we found that the arrival of new energy technology in a home risks shifting power from women to men.
However, buying and running solar energy systems is often seen as a man’s responsibility. Even the sellers are more likely to train male customers on how to fix their system. Household decision-making around buying such systems is highly complicated, with women contributing in a range of ways.
Most of the time, however, and even after discussion, men have the final say on buying a system. Bank and other payment accounts are almost always in the man’s name — even if both partners are equally responsible for finding money to pay the bills.
Inequalities are one reason for this. In the poorest region that we visited, only 60 per cent of the women owned a mobile phone and just four per cent had a bank account — compared to 90 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively, for men.
We cannot expect clean energy to benefit everyone unless women and men have a strong voice in how it is bought and used.
Read more: Daily Nation