Gender and off-grid energy access in Myanmar

Myanmar has the lowest electrification rate in Asia (> 60% rural population lacks electricity), and the Government of Myanmar aims to electrify all households by 2030 through grid extension and off-grid infrastructure. But what will the benefit of electrification be for rural communities, and are these benefits equitably distributed across in¬come groups, gender and ethnicity?

While off-grid renewable energy systems are scaling up, there are few rigorous impact evaluations of the benefits from off-grid electrification, and almost no evidence of gender-differentiated benefits. Further, community participation, in particular women’s empowerment, may be central to sustainability of such rural small-scale initiatives but there are limited studies that have examined this aspect. This can impede the implementation and sustainability of mini-grid systems.

Through collaborations between researchers and practitioners, this project asks a range of questions about access and gender, including:

  • Do women- and men-owned enterprises and community facilities get equal access to electricity?
  • Specifically, do women, especially those from low-income groups and marginalized ethnicities, benefit more from electricity access [e.g. improved health, better income opportunities, in-creased productivity, more time for leisure activities (e.g., watching television)]?
  • Finally, can women’s empowerment programs enhance the household-level impact of such decentralized energy access programs?

This IDRC-funded project will implement a three-year study (2019-2022) in the Dry Zone Region of Myanmar where the majority of solar mini-grid development is taking place. The project will investigate how renewable mini-grid access impacts socio-economic outcomes, particularly by gender, ethnicity and income levels, as well as generate evidence on how women’s empowerment programs influence outcomes. It also aims to engage and incentivize implementation agencies across sectors, in order to influence future implementation of energy programs and policy reforms, as well as train researchers from Myanmar in applied policy research.

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