Viet Nam: Powering Ethnic Minority Women in Remote Communes - 2010

Project Result / Case Study | 1 October 2010

Ethnic minority communities in remote mountain provinces remain unconnected and without “power.” Lack of electricity in these areas is a major development constraint for improving household living standards and quality of life, income opportunities, reducing  the drudgery of agricultural and household work, and delivery of basic social services. ADB’s Viet Nam Renewable Energy Development and Network Expansion and Rehabilitation Project is designed to “power” communities that remain without electrification.

The project aims to improve income and living conditions for ethnic minority communities in remote mountainous communes through household electrification. Support for mini-hydropower plan development and the expansion of distribution networks serving poor provinces aims to provide reliable and affordable supply of electricity in poor and remote communes.  An associated $2.9 million technical assistance grant will be used to build  the capacity of poor households especially women, to develop income-generating activities using electricity, and to access microfinance for such activities.

The project will provide subsidized electricity connections to poor households, subsidized energy efficiency bulbs for households, and an awareness and motivational campaign for safe and productive use of electricity. It will also facilitate access to microfinance for income-generating activities.  

Reliable and affordable electricity supply should lead to socioeconomic development in the targeted communities and offers significant potential benefits for women. Access to electricity can create employment opportunities and additional income for women through increased agricultural productivity due to mechanization and increased opportunities for small business development. It can also improve daily living conditions and quality of life for women. Household lighting can reduce the health risks associated with kerosene  lighting and contribute to greater household comfort. Lighting provides better environment for children to do their homework. Mechanization of agricultural  tools and electric household appliances offer the potential to lessen women’s workloads. Street lighting in public places can contribute to women’s security, mobility and participation in social events.  Electricity can also improve the provision of basic education and health services, especially maternal health facilities. 

Although ethnic minority women play a significant role in subsistence agriculture, animal breeding, and collection of forest products, lack of electricity (power) increases their workload and is an important factor in their limited income generating activities and disadvantaged socioeconomic situation.

Viet Nam has a strong national legal and institutional framework for gender equality.  However, gender analyses reveal persistent inequalities due to cultural perceptions of gender relations. These inequalities include women’s long working hours, their limited access  to resources, poor representation in decision-making especially at the local level, and the persistence of a number of social problems including domestic violence.   

Rural poor and ethnic minority girls and women are especially disadvantaged. A gender analysis conducted during loan design confirmed that ethnic minority women generally have lower social status, less education, fewer contacts outside of their community, and less mobility.  A growing number of female-headed households are especially disadvantaged and vulnerable to poverty. 

A gender strategy is included in the project design to ensure women’s active participation and equal benefit under the project. It provides guidance on three main project activities and proposes specific measures:

(i) Community Management Boards (CMBs).  Ensure CMBs (responsible for facilitating implementation of key project activities with the assistance of the project NGO) includes representatives of the Women’s Union and two women leaders from ethnic minority communities including one women leader from a poor household; and provide women CMB members with capacity building training for planning, implementing, and monitoring project activities; 

(ii) Awareness campaign on the safe use of energy. Ensure that female households, ethnic minority women, and poor women receive subsidized grid connection of electricity; that separate meetings are held with women’s groups for the awareness campaign on productive and safe use of electricity and conservation; and that ethnic minorities, female households, and poor women participate in the awareness campaign; 

(iii) Microfinance for the productive use of electricity. Conduct a needs assessment for women-specific activities through microfinance through meetings with women’s groups to provide information on the microfinance program and its potential for income generation; provide skills training to women borrowers for productive use  of microfinance; and specifically target households headed by women and poor women for income improvement activities. 

The gender strategy also incorporates important mitigation measures to prevent harmful project impacts on women resulting from mini-hydropower plant construction. These measures include preparing a resettlement plan gender strategy to ensure that women are consulted separately about loss of inventory, land acquisition, compensation, and logistics and, in cases where land allocation is required, registering the land in  both the husbands and wife’s name and paying compensation to both men and women.  Mitigation measures also provide for an HIV/AIDS and human trafficking prevention program  to  counter  any  risk  of  HIV/AIDS  or  STDs. The prevention program will target construction laborers, as well as women and men from the subproject areas.

Summary of Expected Benefits from Electrification for Ethnic Minority Women

Increase employment opportunities and income for women:

  • Agricultural activities developed through machinery;
  • Improved animal fodder preparation through mechanization and animal breeding;
  • Improved trade and small business for women.

Improve living standards for women:

  • Reduced household workload and less time demands through lighting and electric appliances;
  • Increased evening study and training opportunities;
  • Improved access to information and entertainment;
  • Increased active time of day and productive activities through household savings;
  • Improved female health care.