Transport Connectivity: A Gender Perspective

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A new compendium of essays on transport and gender has been launched by the International Transport Forum (ITF) and includes ‘The gender data gap: Undermining sustainable and social mobility’ written by Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation, and Kate Turner, Media and Public Affairs Manager.

’Transport Connectivity: A Gender Perspective’ contains 19 contributions which highlight how better transport connections improve access to opportunities for women and girls. Easy physical access to schools and universities, to workplaces, health services and other opportunities is a powerful force for social inclusion and economic development. The authors present challenges and shortcomings of transport connectivity from a gender perspective and propose solutions that will contribute to more inclusive and sustainable transport for all.

You can read the full compendium here and the FIA Foundation contribution below:

Equitable access to transport has a significant impact on regional economic growth and sustainability. Public transport policies are intrinsically linked with issues of gendered access to education, employment, and health care. In short, everyone benefits when women are a key part of any planning process. Providing safe and equitable access to education and employment is not only a basic human right, but it is also part of national commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and The New Urban Agenda.

A fundamental data gap exists which prevents cities, countries and regions from understanding women’s transport experiences and patterns and how to address them. Transport systems traditionally built by men, for men, have far-reaching implications which break across siloed policy areas. In many regions, women are the predominant users of public transport yet their needs are frequently not just ignored, but completely unknown.

When women and girls are restricted in their ability to travel freely it has long-ranging impacts for their own and - because they tend to be primary caregivers - their families’ lives. These impacts, however, are rarely addressed by transport planners, predominately because there is little data about how women move and what they experience. For this reason, the FIA Foundation has funded two ambitious programmes to track women’s interactions with city transport infrastructure to help administrations understand how their citizens are being failed.

The FIA Foundation is committed to promoting safe, clean, fair and green journeys across the world. Through research and scalable projects working with the multilateral development banks, transport experts, and administrations we use real-world data to advocate for the transformation of transport to the benefit of all. None of this work, however, can have an impact without the ability to connect. The focused international platforms and engagement that ITF facilitates can ensure that experiences, ideas and case studies can be shared to promote action and discourse at a regional and global level.

Working with CAF, Development Bank of Latin America, and the cities of Quito, Buenos Aires and Santiago, the FIA Foundation sought to develop a baseline understanding of the differences between how men and women perceive security in public transport and how this affects their travel, addressed in the Ella Se Mueve Segura ( She travels safe) report and toolkit. The findings in all three cities confirmed that women face many types of harassment on an almost daily basis while using public transport. In Santiago, 95% of respondents said they had seen harassment on public transport and 85% had experienced it.

The impact this has on how women travel is significant, for example, a staggering seven out of ten women in Buenos Aires avoid travelling alone. This behaviour has huge ramifications - reducing their access to economic and educational opportunities which reinforces poverty and increases inequality and social exclusion. CAF estimates that improving women's participation in the workforce in Latin American could add 34% to the region's GDP. The so-called ‘economic miracle’ in Latin America between 2002 and 2008 and the drastically reduced extreme poverty levels were largely attributable to the inclusion of 70 million women in the labour market. Given the potential of women to energise country economies, it is clear that increasing their economic empowerment is an efficient and secure way to ensure sustainable growth rates. Out of this report, a toolkit was developed to help cities to address the issues of concern - presented at the 2018 ITF Summit, which also led to the formation of a new Latin American women’s transport group, connecting women across the region.

In India, however, female participation in the workforce is actually dropping. Just 26% of women work, falling from 35% in 2005. Over a similar period of time crimes against women in India spiked more than 80%. In particular, the gang rape and murder of a student, Jyoti Singh Pandey, on a Delhi bus in 2012 sparked a global outcry about women’s safety. Concerns about safety for girls and young women are restricting their freedom of movement, limiting their academic prospects and curtailing future employment opportunities. Even skilled women are unable to unlock their full earning potential; according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, urban Indian women are turning down more lucrative jobs further away from home to avoid the public transport system.

How then, can urban transport policies address the deep-rooted fears about personal security on public transport and turn the tide on decreasing participation in both education and life? A new government initiative in Delhi is offering free public transport to women to encourage them to use the services, but policies like this are unlikely to succeed unless the root causes are addressed. That is why the FIA Foundation has partnered with Safetipin – an innovative digital project to track journeys to build a picture of when and where women feel at risk on public transport journeys - from door to door, not just on the bus. This project is specifically focusing on adolescent girls’ experiences, to highlight the risks they face to city administrations and help protect one of the most vulnerable groups.

Overall, this is a bold new opportunity to really show city administrations how young women are being failed, how to address the challenges and how to break the patterns that have forced so many women into toxic personal vehicles or entirely out of education, the workplace and public spaces. It is in every city and region’s interest to address women’s interactions and experiences of public transport. Building a dataset that reflects female experiences, and connecting to share how these can be used is the only way to balance equity, improve mobility, and ensure sustainability