Economic Empowerment and Livelihood
Women and Renewable Energy in a South African Community: Exploring Energy Poverty and Environmental Racism
This paper argues that the rights of women to be included in decisions about energy use and their experiences with energy use are ignored. Using an eco-feminist perspective this article explores how the rhetoric of ‘renewable energy for the poor’ which bypasses women’s voices and experience in domestic uses of renewable energy result in reverse outcomes of pro-environmental policy for the poor, as well as, for society in general. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 20 women in Lwandle, in South Africa, the article identifies three themes reflecting on how the women experience the installation of solar water heaters. The first theme discusses the exclusion of women from consultations as an endurance of environmental racism and sexism. Secondly, the findings reflect on how domestic labour and costs increase in the face of dysfunctional SWHs. I also discuss how the decision to install these geysers in shared bathrooms overrides residents’ expressed needs for privacy and dignity. The third theme discusses the continued use of fossil fuels such as paraffin and its implication for household safety, expenditure and the environment. The paper concludes with the enjoinder that women be included in consultations and planning of proenvironmental projects from the start.
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