Unfit transport systems exclude adolescent girls from opportunity, says new report

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Adolescent girls used the Safetipin app to asses the safety of sites around the Delhi region.
Adolescent girls used the Safetipin app to asses the safety of sites around the Delhi region.
44% of all the audit points across the city were rated  as ‘frightening’ or ‘uncomfortable’.
44% of all the audit points across the city were rated as ‘frightening’ or ‘uncomfortable’.
Audit points were rated on nine criteria to assess the feelings of safety.
Audit points were rated on nine criteria to assess the feelings of safety.

The combined impact of a poor built environment and unsafe transport systems have significant impacts on the ways in which adolescent girls in the Delhi region move and engage with society, says an innovative new report by social enterprise Safetipin, supported by the FIA Foundation.

The study ‘Expanding access to opportunities for girls and women: working towards safe mobility’ examined the experiences of adolescent girls’ journeys in three low-income neighbourhood locations in India. Using a unique app created by Safetpin, girls audited points around their area on their daily journeys, assessing a range of criteria including lighting, walkpaths and visibility, alongside their overall feelings of safety. This data was analysed alongside interviews with local girls and women, in order to more fully understand how their experiences and behaviours are shaped by the physical and social frameworks in which they live.

The study highlighted the significant impact of the environment on girls’ feelings of security and the limited spaces where they felt safe to move:

  • 44% of all audit points assessed felt ‘frightening’ or ‘uncomfortable’, and would be avoided by women if possible;
  • Street use was notably gendered, with women regularly using less than a third of public spaces assessed; and
  • Greater use of an area by women correlated directly with women’s comfort levels; of the audit points with higher gender use, 89% were perceived as ‘comfortable’ or ‘acceptable’.

The experiences of girls varied throughout the study, but there were many similar factors that impacted how they moved around their local environment. For example, girls would adapt their travel plans to avoid particularly busy or quiet periods of the day because they felt unsafe in both settings. Experiences of sexual harassment and the fear of it emerged as one of the significant barriers to girls’ mobility both in public spaces and on public transport; in one location, street harassment was cited as one of the major factors for abandoning education altogether.

Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation, said: “There is not enough data and information about women’s mobility patterns and experiences, and how they shape our lives. This report provides the sort of empirical data we need. It reports the experiences of adolescent girls who are often navigating public spaces independently for the first time and are potentially excluded from education and employment because their transport systems do not keep them safe. This has to change, and the FIA Foundation is proud to be part of the Child Health Initiative, which is working to secure just this sort of change.”

Kalpana Viswanath, Safetipin CEO, added: “Lack of safe spaces and safe transport restrict girls and women’s access to opportunities for education, work and leisure - and thereby denies them equal rights to the city.” 

To download the report please click here.