Haiti: A bright light for practical gender considerations in infrastructure PPPs

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Grid technicians | © EarthSpark International Grid technicians in Haiti | © EarthSpark International

In a climate of deep insecurity, civil unrest, and a current global pandemic, women and girls are—perhaps more than ever—the backbone of Haitian society and the local economy. Nearly half of Haitian households are women-led, meaning that an adult female is the sole or main income producer and decision maker. This is one of the highest proportions in the world.

Although in Haiti women make up the majority of street vendors and support to agricultural supply chains, they’ve historically occupied an inferior social position. Yet, since the country’s battle for independence (1791-1804), women of all social positions have been involved in social movements—even if history does not recall their names. On the books, women in Haiti have equal constitutional rights as men in the economic, political, cultural, social, and family spheres, with voting rights finally granted in 1957.

However, the reality in Haiti is quite far from the law. Women and girls face discrimination and violence and this is a structural feature in Haitian society and culture that has subsisted both in times of peace and unrest. The country’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs has limited capacity and funding and can’t bridge the gap that exists for safety and inequality. Hence, women and girls in Haiti still face significant obstacles when accumulating assets, including human capital, and register lower education and health outcomes.

Embedded into this sensitive context are two World Bank energy projects that offer new opportunities for training and employment of women in this non-traditional field. Both jointly aim at scaling up renewable energy and off-grid energy access in Haiti, taking into close account the country’s fragility, low implementation capacity, weak governance in the sector, and less-favorable enabling conditions for private sector.

Considering the fragmented nature of Haiti’s electricity system (nine isolated grids, more than 30 municipal grids, and an estimated 500 MW in self-generation), the project’s focus on distributed renewable energy—like mini grids and off-grid solar products—targeting the 83 percent of the rural population without electricity access.

How did this work get off the unfertile ground? The Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) supported the Haitian government by funding the sharing of best practices on how to structure and operationalize PPP approaches in the mini grid sector, which led to a successful first round of development. The first concession agreements for seven sites are expected to be signed with $9.3 million in commercial finance mobilized; a second round is being designed and is expected to launch this month.

The role of women here may not be immediately clear, but it is this: again with strong support from PPIAF, our starting point for the Haiti projects has been to close the gender gap related to female employment in the off-grid electricity sector and to support positive gender outcomes for women as consumers and entrepreneurs.  

To that end, mini grid developers involved in the project are encouraged to think of gender equality right from the start, as a part of the design phase. For example, gender inclusiveness was one of the evaluation criteria that counted towards the award of the project. Indeed, the awarded mini grid developers have already conceptualized and committed to approaches to increase the share of women in their labor force as well as to actions to support female entrepreneurs. These obligations and reporting requirements that include gender disaggregated data are encoded in their contracts with the government. 

Existing mini grids in Haiti are already demonstrating that gender inclusiveness is not just an ethical and developmental consideration, but that it also works.  EarthSpark, a mini grid operator recognized for tackling energy poverty and gender inequity with a UN Momentum for Change award in 2018, uses a “feminist electrification” approach that involves women as leaders throughout all aspects of mini grid development and operations—infrastructure planning, customer and community service provision, targeted workforce development, and support to small and medium enterprises. Feminist electrification ensures that women and men are equal participants in the new power systems that are established through the arrival of microgrids.

World Bank support will continue this momentum for the off-grid energy sector, which can shift gender dynamics quickly and significantly in rural Haiti.  

With all this in mind, we’re very optimistic to see how this work brings power—both literal and figurative—to communities and women in the country.


Related Posts

Moving gender-lens infrastructure investment from niche to mainstream: What will it take?

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A new primer to help think about gender equality in infrastructure PPPs

Let’s build the infrastructure that no hurricane can erase (2016)

5 ways public-private partnerships can promote gender equality

Examining public-private partnership projects through a gender lens


This blog is managed by the Infrastructure Finance, PPPs & Guarantees Group of the World Bank. Learn more about our work here.


Dana Resankova

Senior Energy Specialist

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