Research over the past two decades on links between energy, gender and development suggests that greater inclusion of gender concerns in energy sector decision-making improves development outcomes. In practice, this has typically led to gendered energy approaches that focus more on technological fixes rather than providing appropriate energy services, and on meeting women’s immediate needs rather than addressing the broader cultural, socio-economic and political contexts important for attaining genuine gender equity.
This paper takes a systems perspective to explore gender issues in the context of a transition from traditional to modern energy services, such as lighting, powering appliances and charging mobile phones. Viewing gender through the lens of the Energy Cultures Framework, we analyse the case of the Mpanta solar mini-grid in rural northern Zambia. It finds that the transition to more modern energy services is far from gender neutral: despite providing broad benefits within the community, the benefits derived from a new technology and service were not evenly distributed between men and women due to broader socio-cultural practices and norms. This paper offers important insights for research and practice in energy, gender and development.