What is the Feminist Economics Perspective in Rural Electrification?
The Economist has an article about feminist economics. It says, in part:
Does “Feminist economics”, which has its own journal, really bring anything distinctive?
Defining it as a look at the economy from a female perspective provides one straightforward answer.
Ignoring the feminist perspective is bad economics. The discipline aims to explain the allocation of scarce resources; it is bound to go wrong if it ignores the role that deep imbalances between men and women play in this allocation. As long as this inequality exists, there is space for feminist economics.
I don’t claim that I have fully understood feminist economics. However, in my work related to rural electrification in Asia and Africa, I tried to meet women and listen to their views. I found no meaningful difference. Both men and women were eager to get electricity in their homes — perhaps the women wanted it a bit more.
Once I went to a home in rural Indonesia that had got electricity about two weeks ago. I asked to see the old oil lamps. Sorry, they were gone. They looked at me as if I was somewhat crazy. Why would they keep the old lamps?
Once I was in rural East Africa. There was a debate about where a small dam would be built. When I asked the women what their views were, their answer was short and clear. They said, in effect, “Please decide fast. And, then we will carry stones on our heads, if needed, to build the dam.”
So, yes, here was a difference. The men related to the two possible sites for the dam were competing to get the dam built on their site. The women did not care where it was built.
As it happened, a way was found to settle the dispute quickly. And the residents do now have reasonably reliable electricity.
Is this feminist economics? Probably not. To me, it just seems to be ground reality.
So, my question is: How do I integrate feminist economics in rural electrification?
Please leave your suggestions as a comment below.