In 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 189 countries adopted the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, pledging to undertake specific actions to achieve gender equality in 12 areas, including women and the environment and women in power and decision-making. ENERGIA was established one year later, in 1996, by a group of experts who had participated in the Beijing Conference, in response to a lack of attention to gender in the energy sector. ENERGIA aimed to increase the recognition of gender issues in energy planning, policies and programs, while also raising awareness of the interlinkages between energy, poverty and gender.
In 1996, a gender perspective to energy supply and use was not recognized at the local, national or international level. Little attention was given to women’s energy needs and domestic workload, fuelling stereotypes, prejudices and gender norms; not only within communities, but also at high-level meetings.
Energy access for household and productive activities was hardly discussed as being a fundamental human right that could benefit both women and men, improving their livelihood and reducing drudgery.
A lack of sex-disaggregated data on the ways energy access impacts and benefits women resulted in an incomplete understanding of women’s roles and responsibilities, and how these can change with the implementation of specific energy interventions and policies. Most important, evidence that gender, energy access and poverty are all linked was not available. Energy was discussed mostly in relation to the environment and climate change, and not fully recognized as playing a critical role in the reduction of poverty and as a basic need like water and health for rural households and communities. In turn, energy poverty was not defined in terms of empowerment, security, and economic, social and political opportunity.