Women’s access to safe public transportation is key to sustainable development. In some parts of the world, a significant number of women and girls use low-carbon transport modes, particularly walking and cycling to travel to work.
For example, the 2011 census of India reported that 84 per cent of women use low-carbon transport modes to travel to their workplace in urban areas. Despite this data, mobility plans often do not consider the needs of women and girls, and consequently neglect their views for safety, security and comfort.
Lack of safety in public spaces affects women’s human rights and their ability to participate equally in the city.
When women feel unsafe in public spaces, they are less likely to travel. This hinders their access to education and social services for example, making them unable to take advantage of the existing economic and social opportunities. Women will ultimately become the major beneficiaries of improved access to safe infrastructure for walking and cycling.
According to International Transport Forum’s, Transport Connectivity: A Gender Perspective report released in 2019, gender-specific experiences in transport stem from a constellation of economic and social disparities including access to resources, household responsibilities and cultural norms surrounding women’s mobility. As a result, women face unique time and resource constraints, as well as safety considerations with respect to their travel activity and their participation in the transport workforce. These differences are systemic and self-reinforcing, as mobility provides access to sources of income, education, health care and other opportunities.
Transport systems that facilitate equal access, safety and convenience raise the standard of service for all users and bring significant regional economic and social benefits. A 2011 World Bank report recommends the need to integrate gender into transport policies and programmes. It recommends:
- Gender-informed transport policies, strategies and regulations—through social and gender analysis and participatory planning that includes both female and male beneficiaries.
- Routine analysis of gender and transport issues during transport planning and implementation—to determine affordability and access of transport for different populations.
- Gender-inclusive consultation—mechanisms are needed to increase women’s participation, such as focus group discussions with women by women.
- Awareness-raising and capacity-building for transport agencies and service operators—to create capacity to address gender issues in transport and to build a constituency to ensure that gender issues are systematically addressed.
- Public awareness-raising about women’s mobility needs with respect for local culture—to expand women’s and girls’ mobility and access to health services, education and economic opportunities.
- Gender-informed monitoring and evaluation—to ensure that important gender-related activities are implemented, and the impacts are measured through gender-informed monitoring and evaluation.
The United Nations Environment Programme’s Share the Road Programme is about to begin a four-year project titled “Investing in Walking and Cycling Policies in Rwanda, Zambia and Ethiopia.”
The project will work with civil society groups representing women, children, youth and other vulnerable groups, along with national and city governments and other stakeholders such as UN Women. The project will support governments in reviewing their investment priorities for transport and prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable in their transport planning.