Gender equality as the plank of sustainable development


Achieving sustainable development goals, particularly the SDG5 on gender equality and SDG7 on clean energy, relies on addressing gender disparities in the energy sector.


GS-02 (Gender)


SDG Goals, Global Gender Gap Report 2023, WEF, Global Gender Gap Index, Gender Parity, Local Governance.

Mains Question:

“Though women have a key role in energy access, production, and consumption, they face barriers, limiting their participation and impact in the energy sector”, Comment. 150 words.

Gender inequality in India:

  • Gender inequality is a pressing issue in the Indian society.
  • Despite having a stride in the economic growth, gender inequality in India remains a nightmare.
  • About 1,000 girls die each day before reaching the age of five due to neglect.
  • India’s rank is low in the indices that measure gender equality — including economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; political empowerment; and legal protection.
  • One of the main cause being high levels of discriminatory social norms, laws and cultural practices.
  • Examples of gender inequality:
    • Less access to education and employment.
    • Under-representation in political positions.
    • Poorer health and nutrition than men.
    • Violence against women.

Causes of Gender Inequality in India

  • Poverty: India’s widespread poverty exacerbates gender inequality. Economic constraints often lead families to prioritize the education of boys over girls that heightens disparities in opportunities.
  • Patriarchal Society: India’s deeply entrenched patriarchal norms have historically relegated women to subordinate roles within the family and society at large which in-turn restricts women’s autonomy and participation in decision-making processes.
  • Lack of Education: Many women lack access to education. A recent study shows that female education rate of India is at 65.6%  which is significantly lower than the world average at 79.7%. Even among literate women, awareness of their rights remains low, hindering their ability to advocate for equality.
  • Limited Awareness Among Women: Cultural and social norms often dictate women’s subservience to men. Addressing this requires empowering women with knowledge of their rights and encouraging them to assert themselves.
  • Social Customs and Beliefs: Prevailing societal attitudes and traditional customs reinforce gender hierarchies that  denies women equal opportunities afforded to men.

Gender Gap Report 2023 Highlights:

  • India’s position in the Gender Gap Report has risen from 135th to 127th out of 146 countries.
  • Neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China have lower rankings.
  • However, Bhutan and Nepal rank higher.
  • Education Parity Achieved: India has achieved gender parity in education enrollment across all levels, signifying a positive trend in the education sector.
  • Political empowerment: India has shown progress with 25.3% gender parity. Women’s representation in parliament has also reached 15.1%, the highest since 2006.
  • Health and Survival: While there has been a slight improvement in India’s sex ratio at birth, the country still faces challenges in health and survival due to skewed sex ratios, along with Vietnam, China, and Azerbaijan.

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Role of Gender in Energy Access
  • The Gender Gap in the Energy Sector
  • Addressing the Disparity
  • The Economic and Social Impact

Role of Gender in Energy Access:

  • Generally in the households, women are primarily responsible for managing energy needs.
  • They often lack access to modern energy sources making them rely on harmful alternatives like biomass and kerosene.
  • This increases health risks, particularly for women and children, and perpetuates energy poverty.

The Gender Gap in the Energy Sector:

  • Although women’s contribution is significant they remain underrepresented in the energy sector.
  • Globally, women hold only a fraction of technical positions that reflects systemic barriers such as limited educational opportunities and discriminatory practices.
  • This gender disparity undermines the sector’s diversity and innovation potential.

Addressing the Disparity:

  • Governments, international organizations, and NGOs must prioritize gender mainstreaming in energy policies and initiatives.
  • Programs like Women at the Forefront and ENTICE provide platforms for women to engage in entrepreneurship and drive sustainable energy practices.
  • Additionally, initiatives like Solar Mamas empower women by providing access to clean energy and training opportunities.

The Economic and Social Impact:

  • Investing in women’s empowerment in the energy sector will invite significant economic and social benefits.
  • Meanwhile, closing the gender gap in employment and entrepreneurship can help the nation boost global GDP and foster innovation.
  • It will also enhance productivity and contributes to positive social and environmental outcomes.

Way Forward:

Empowering women in the energy sector and other dynamics is essential for achieving sustainable development and addressing global challenges, as promoting gender equality in energy access and workforce participation shall unlock new opportunities for innovation, productivity, and economic growth.

  • It also helps the nation set an example for other countries and within which will automatically fix the imbalance.
  • And as we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is important to reaffirm our commitment to harnessing the power of women and energy to create a more inclusive and sustainable world for all.