USAID SARI-Energy What We Do
The South Asia Women in Energy Network:
Finding Solutions to Rural and Urban Energy Shortages

The lack of access to clean energy – and often energy in any form – makes life extraordinarily difficult for many women in South Asia.  Household chores become far more labour-intensive, taking time from women that could be better spent on family life or income-generating activities. And daughters may be taken out of school to help their mothers with chores, virtually guaranteeing the perpetuation of poverty for future generations of women.

The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) South Asia Regional Initiative/Energy (SARI/Energy) program is working to change this situation through its South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) activity. Formed in April 2008, SAWIE brings together women energy sector professionals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to understand, identify and develop sustainable approaches to providing low-cost efficient energy to poor women and men in rural and urban areas throughout the region.

SAWIE: Advancing Economic Growth Opportunities for Women in South Asia

By exposing women to the opportunities available in pursuing a “green” agenda such as clean energy production through renewable and energy efficiency practices and techniques in homes and communities, the SAWIE network encourages women entrepreneurs to participate in the industrial and economic activities that are involved in the management and delivery of clean energy products and services.

Exchanging Ideas and Sharing Best Practices: SAWIE Workshops

These workshops provide women energy professionals the opportunity to exchange ideas and share best practices in energy conservation and efficiency. SAWIE’s first workshop was held in April 21-25 2008 in Kerala, India and focused on:

  • methods of providing low-cost efficient energy to the urban and rural poor;
  • efficient energy management at the household and community levels;
  • best practices in energy efficiency and conservation, with a focus on using household appliances to reduce energy waste;
  • renewable energy applications (solar cookers, solar lighting, solar dryers etc.);
  • income generating activities; and
  • women’s social status and their role as agents of change.

This workshop was organized by PA Consulting Group with Energy Management Centre (EMC), Kerala, India as the Knowledge Partner. The workshop was attended by 33 women professionals from South Asia.

SAWIE’s second workshop was held in November, 17-19, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was organized by PA Consulting Group, co-sponsored by UNDP Dhaka, and facilitated by the Bangladesh Renewable Energy Association (BREA), and the Grameen Shakti. The workshop drew 35 women engineers, architects, academicians, researchers and practitioners from the SAWIE countries, Thailand and the USA. Around 20 technical papers were presented on:

  • energy efficiency and energy conservation;
  • renewable energy technologies/green architecture;
  • gender mainstreaming;
  • energy enterprises, microfinance and income generation; and
  • capacity building/best practices/information sharing.
Promoting Women in Energy through Cooperation with Energia

SARI/Energy has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Energia – Energia is an international network on gender and sustainable energy. Energia’s goal is to contribute to the empowerment of women - both rural and urban through a specific focus on energy. Under this MoU, SARI/Energy and Energia will identify and carry out collaborative projects and activities that enhance each organization’s ability to reach out to women.

Charting the Way Forward: SAWIE Working Groups

SAWIE has formed four working groups to explore and implement activities that promote regional women’s sustainable use of energy:

Capacity Building/Best Practices/Information Sharing:

This working group plans include:

  • creating an enabling environment with appropriate policy and legal frameworks;
  • furthering institutional development and community participation with a focus on women;
  • strengthening managerial systems for women;
  • creating awareness by forming energy conservation groups in schools and making energy a compulsory subject at the university level;
  • providing training on using household appliances efficiently;
  • involving manufacturers in SAWIE activities;
  • setting standards for building construction; and
  • disseminating information on renewable energy technologies.

Gender Mainstreaming

This group plans to integrate gender into projects through:

  • raising awareness via workshops;
  • field-based learning;
  • technical training on gender mainstreaming for energy project planners;
  • training on writing proposals;
  • creating a methodology on gender mainstreaming; and
  • sharing information on the status of gender mainstreaming in each SARI/Energy country.

Microfinance and Income Generation

The members of this group will work to:

  • build awareness on energy-efficient and renewable technologies;
  • provide loans to domestic maids to purchase energy-efficient household appliances, and grants to work with physically handicapped women;
  • assist Afghanistan’s environmental protection agencies in drafting energy efficiency policies; and
  • develop micro-enterprises that use locally available raw materials.

Renewable Energy/Green Architecture:

This group plans to:

  • study energy-efficient residential housing in Bangladesh;
  • hold workshops for architects to disseminate knowledge on energy-efficient building design;
  • study energy production from solid wastes;
  • establish an education centre on energy conservation in Kerala, India;
  • produce a documentary film on a slum rehabilitation project in Kerala, India;
  • build women’s capacity to operate, repair, and maintain renewable technologies; and
  • implement innovative projects in areas such as distribution of solar lanterns to poor households, testing the efficiency of electronic ballasts etc.
Small Grants Program

The Small Grants Program (SGP) initiative under SARI/Energy seeks to increase the number of institutions engaged in regional and rural energy issues by allocation of grants towards such efforts. This is expected to be one of the main vehicles for public participation in SARI/Energy projects, among others, by community organisations and is expected to raise awareness and involvement at grassroots, local, national and regional levels by improving business and/or livelihood practices in SARI/Energy countries.

The SGP also encourages the women network, by aiming to provide assistance to small-scale self-help endeavours of qualified non-governmental and community groups implementing relevant energy programs oriented towards women.

USEA SAWIE Executive Exchange Program (May 12-19, 2009)

SAWIE Centre of Excellence

About SARI/Energy

SARI/Energy promotes energy security in South Asia through:

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If you are interested in joining any of the working groups or need more information about SAWIE, 
please visit the website, or contact
Mercy Thomas, SAWIE Program Manager, USAID/India (
Ritesh Kr. Singh, Manager, Small Grants Task Order - SARI/Energy, Tetra Tech, Email:


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