World Bank Forum Looks at Gender Inequity in Transportation

During the October 2019 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, sessions covered topics of concern around international economies and development goals. On Thursday, October 17th, The World Bank hosted a roundtable on Engendering Transport featuring speakers from multiple international development banks and ministers of transport. The session tackled United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) of achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls (SDG 5), and making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11).

The discussion focused on the hinderance of access for women due to actual and perceived safety and security concerns. Studies across the globe suggest that nearly all women who use public transportation report being sexually harassed on public transportation at some point. Furthermore, in many areas, women are responsible for caretaking of children and homes leading to the need to transport children and goods for parts or entireties of trips.

Alka Upadhyaya of the Ministry of Rural Development of India outlined many projects in the country that worked towards both SDG 5 and SDG 11. Studies in India have shown that building and improving rural roads can decrease infant mortality and lead to better access to hospitals and health care for mothers as well as other members of rural populations. However, infrastructure must be maintained by local communities in order for it to provide benefits. By coupling goals to provide reliable access and to involve women in the transportation workforce, the project employed local women in road maintenance.

Additional potential solutions to inequities in access ranged from on the ground projects in Egypt installing cameras and better lighting in public transit stations; a project providing credit to women in rural areas of India to purchase small automobiles for 4-5 kilometer trips; women’s only metro cars in cities around the world including Delhi, Mexico City, and Tokyo; and multiple projects aiming to bring more women into the transportation workforce to create safe and comfortable environments for women. While some solutions are finance- and funding-based such as assisting with capital purchases or funding training programs, the projects must be examined holistically and longitudinally such that performance isn’t measured by number of graduates from training courses, but are instead evaluated based on long-term retention and success of women in new fields, and additional safety access provided to larger populations.

Many international development organizations encourage or require projects to include a gender element.  As these projects mature, the performance measures used to measure success of achieving gender equality and empowerment as well as making cities and settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable will be well poised to succeed if they examine long term effects and externalities as well as short term success stories.

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