Women are more reliant on public transport, more likely to walk further, less likely to have access to drive the family car and often experience harassment on public transport systems. This has an impact on our societies, economies, and families. What can be done to address it?
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There is need for a mind-shift in gender stereotypes. Even with a change in infrastructure and public spaces if the stereotypes are still present than change will not occur as envisioned.
Policy actors in the transportation sector need to incorporate youth, girls and women in the entire process of planning and implementation of the sector. More women are needed in the transport sector.
There is lack of adequate data on safety for 15-24 year olds.
More women are obliged to walk, rely on public transport and are less likely to use bicycles.
Men are more likely to own vehicles, be the drivers and women more of passengers.
Women travel more for non-work reasons e.g. shopping, taking children to hospital and lack of transportation more likely to affect women.
In case of road-crashes women are more prone to lower-limb injuries due to their biological make-up.
91% of girls surveyed as part of Plan International’s Safer Cities program in Belgium had experienced sexual harassment in public places, versus 28% of boys.
Only 6% of victims file complaints the same report found. There is a need, Wouter argued, to lower the barriers to reporting harassment and increase perpetrators’ understanding.
Only 7% of public transport workers in Kenya are women according to Flone Initiative figures.
In Kenya, in households that own cars only 10% of the women drive.
The factors that are taken into consideration whilst choosing the mode of transport are convenience, safety, reliability, comfort and cost. The factors that however ranked highest were safety and reliability even in cases where cost was high.
Harassment is prevalent and somewhat normalized and mostly occurring in bus stations where passengers are waiting to board vehicles.
The harassment in order of prevalence includes; inappropriate physical touching, use of abusive language and stripping of women (rare).
Key Opportunities/Inspiration for NGOs
There is no single solution that will tackle the problem of gender inequality in mobility.
Programs that offer segregated transport services for women are suitable as a short-term but not long-term solution
There is a need to lower the barrier for women to report sexual harassment. This includes education as harassment has been normalized.
Men can be trained to be role models and supporters, helping when they see harassment taking place.
Plan International has launched a digital platform where people can indicate places which are considered safe and unsafe in regard to harassment.
In Kenya, the “My dress my choice campaign” was organized through Facebook and eventually leading to an offline protest. Following the protest a law was passed on having a sentence of up to 10 years for any persons caught stripping women or other persons. The perpetrators were additionally sentenced to life imprisonment.
Public transport workers are often not trained in customer service or to identify and deal with harassment. Flone trains public transport operators in identified harassment hotspots. Its program “Usalama Umma” (public safety) seeks to train the operators on key areas of i) customer service ii) road safety and iii) sensitization on harassment. This is a replicable solution.
Marie-Axelle Granié, PhD, is Director of Research in Social Developmental Psychology at Gustave Eiffel University, France. She has been working for the past 20 years on how the relationship to risk and traffic rules is constructed throughout an individual’s life, in particular to understand gender differences in risk behaviors and traffic violations. She is currently vice-chair of the Experts Committee of the National Road Safety Council and a member of the Evaluation Committee of Sustainable Development Researchers.
Naomi Mwaura is the founder of Flone Initiative, an organization working to create a safe and professional public transport industry in Kenya. She was one of the lead organizers of the MyDressMyChoice campaign that saw thousands of women protest against gender-based violence in Kenyan public transport. She is co-author of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’s “Street for Walking and Cycling: Designing for Comfort, Safety and Accessibility in African Cities” guidebook in partnership with UN Habitat and has been involved in development of the Cairo Bus Rapid Transit Gender Plan and study on expanding access to cycling for women.
Wouter Stes has been working in the field of children’s rights and girl’s rights for more than a decade. He currently coordinates the advocacy work for Plan International Belgium on its Safer Cities Program. The goal of this worldwide program is to build safe, inclusive and responsible cities with and for adolescent girls. A priority within the Belgian program is partnership with public transport providers to invest in safer and more accessible public transport. Wouter is the president of the Belgian Dutch-speaking Child Rights Coalition. In this role, he assembles organisations from different fields who aim to create a more child-and youth friendly society through a programmatic and advocacy approach.