This study is set in an urban area, in a township called Khayelitsha in South Africa, where poverty, violence and unemployment are endemic. Since the new democratic order came to power in 1994, there have been two changes in policy that impact on this study. The first is that gender equality has been legislated (with some machinery to enforce this), the second is that an accelerated electrification programme has been implemented so that 75% of the formal houses and shacks in Khayelitsha are electrified. This study uses cooking as the domestic chore that epitomises traditionally gendered domestic relationships to explore the hypothesis that when women have access to modern energy services their daily drudgery is reduced and they are able to improve their own lives. The findings include the resentment felt by some men that they can no longer use force to compel their partners to perform domestic duties to their own satisfaction, and that, backed by strong institutional support for gender equality, access to modern energy services (in this case electricity) can facilitate shifts in gender roles and responsibilities in the domestic sphere.