Fuelling women’s empowerment? An exploration of the linkages between gender, entrepreneurship and access to energy in the informal food sector

This interdisciplinary review paper explores linkages between access to energy, women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. This will be discussed in the context of the informal food sector. Despite expectations that access to energy for productive uses empowers women by enabling them to generate an income, women in developing countries face a range of barriers when establishing and operating enterprises, including access to energy. The literature reviewed in this paper suggests that, although improved access to energy for women in the informal food sector may create a range of benefits for women, the empirical evidence base upon which such claims are made is limited. Access to a range of energy services suitable to their enterprise would provide women with building blocks to operate their enterprise, alleviate restrictions on growth, increase their sustainability, and provide them with increased control over enterprise operation. These may help to create an enabling environment for empowerment, rather than directly contributing to it. Consideration of the gendered dynamics and logics of entrepreneurship in the design of development interventions, in particular with regard to motivations for operating an enterprise, spatial distribution of enterprises, growth strategies and risk behaviour, may lead to more sustainable and empowered enterprises in the long-term.