The power of language: Exploring values, empowerment dynamics and communication strategies for gender-inclusive energy service design in rural Uganda

30 November 2021

Energy Research & Social Science

S. A. Hirmera, Antonella Mazzone, Alycia Leonarda & Costanza Conforti

View Journal Article / Working Paper

Understanding consumer needs and values is crucial to the sustainable delivery and uptake of energy access projects in Low-and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Nevertheless, many energy projects aim to empower women without first assessing gendered roles, needs, values, and relations for both men and women in project communities. Neglecting these can be detrimental to the end-users of energy projects, exacerbating conflict within households rather than empowering vulnerable groups. We propose a value-based approach to elicit the varying priorities and values of men and women and assess how these may shape energy access project design and communication in LMICs. Data from 84 qualitative individual interviews, equally split between men and women, and 28 gender-disaggregated focus-group discussions in seven rural Ugandan communities were used. We find that men and women in rural Uganda held largely the same high-priority underlying values focused on basic human needs such as income, healthcare, information services, food security, and water security. However, the language used to communicate these values differed in small but significant ways. Based on this, we offer two potential solutions for a more balanced gender-inclusive approach to energy service project design and communication: (1) Design projects and messaging based on underlying values of both genders while avoiding inadvertently reproducing patriarchal norms; and (2) use gender-specific messaging and vocabulary1 linking energy projects to underlying values to increase buy-in. This work constitutes a first step in better understanding the importance of gender-disaggregated data in decision-making for energy access initiatives in LMICs.