Mininni, Giulia M (2020) Can energy empower women? : A case study of the Solar Mamas' programme in rural Rajasthan, India. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Feminist scholars who have analysed the gender, energy and development (GED) and women’s empowerment nexus, including Clancy et al. (2012), Batliwala, (2015), and Dutta et al. (2017), claim that access to energy is critical in the development process for social inclusion and gender equality. However, it is argued that because of societal rules and patriarchal norms that dictate gendered roles and responsibilities, women and children suffer the most from the lack of, and the unequal access to, energy services (Dutta, 2019). This is especially true in the context of rural Rajasthan where there is strong discrimination against women and gender inequality (Kaushik, 2015). There is a lack of empirical evidence on the extent to which and how, access to energy, and training in energy technology, can facilitate the achievement of rural women’s empowerment. This thesis addresses this important research gap through a case study of the Solar Mamas’ programme of the Barefoot College (BC) in rural Rajasthan. The NGO has been engaging illiterate and semi-literate women for over 20 years in training in small-scale solar energy technology solutions to address energy poverty. Drawing on feminist constructivist epistemology, I adopt mixed methods of qualitative data gathering and analysis to question the role of the BC in fostering rural Rajasthani women’s empowerment. The specific socio-cultural context of rural Rajasthan makes it especially difficult for those rural women who are marginalised to start their empowerment process alone. Therefore, I argue that the role of the College is critical to facilitating the empowerment of rural women. My analysis reveals that the NGO innovative eco-village cooperative living model offers spatial and temporal features that facilitate long-lasting changes in women’s lives, therefore encouraging ‘transformative’ empowerment. There emerge instances of intergenerational change affecting new generations, therefore emphasising empowerment as an ongoing process. The training and the engagement with the NGO also encourage women’s collective agency and entrepreneurship in the rural energy technology sector. This, in turn, challenges the gendered division of labour and knowledge domains, and contributes to greater gender equality. I suggest that an analysis of the social fabric of households and the community should supplement development interventions on energy provision and energy technology training. Such analysis can uncover social inequalities and differences in energy access, use, and the benefits deriving from services, and can facilitate challenging these constraints to encourage women’s ‘transformative’ empowerment through energy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Political and Global Studies
Contributors: MacGregor, Sherilyn (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2020 08:34
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2021 14:22

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