Women’s roles and positions in African society have diversified over the years with more women taking on traditionally male jobs and the number of women-led households increasing. Safer and more accessible transportation options allow women to access employment, education and other productive economic activities. However, women continue to face challenges when it comes to accessing safe transportation.
A recent case study conducted by Flone Initiative on women’s travel patterns in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as similar studies from across Africa and around the world, show that women use public transportation more often than men, and take more trips per day than men (usually because they have additional duties as well as employment obligations associated with caring for dependents or managing household responsibilities). Despite their dependence on public transportation, a significant number of female commuters said that they either change their travel patterns or refuse to travel due to safety concerns.
Threats and acts of sexual harassment are a constant challenge. Women’s fear of sexual violence forces them to change their traveling routes or to abandon some routes altogether. According to the United Nations, a third of women globally will experience some form of public sexual harassment at some stage in their life. Violence against women and girls, or the threat of violence both in private and public, remains a key limiting factor to women’s mobility and engagement in processes of development. Participating in productive economic development activities includes participating in and utilizing public transport services; either as commuters or as workers.
Environmental factors in transportation disproportionately impact women as residents, workers and commuters. The transport sector is considered one of the most difficult to abate in terms of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the curbing of air pollution from vehicles powered by combustible engines. The impact of this lack of abatement on respiratory health amongst the young and old and on the livelihoods of low-income groups from climate change-induced extreme weather, is felt greater by women than men. Placing a focus on Gender Equality and Sustainable Mobility provides the potential for the intersection of both inclusionary practices and policies and environmental sustainability – two key priorities for sustainable and equitable economic development in emerging markets.
Physical accessibility to transport services is an additional challenge faced by road users. According to the 2009 Kenya census, approximately 10 percent of the population (equal to 4. 44 million people) reported living with a disability. According to the Kenya national Survey for Persons with Disabilities (KNSPWD), 65% of people living with disabilities cite the physical environment (such as terrain, climate, accessibility to transport) as a major problem in their daily lives.
As Africa develops, it is imperative to create safe, healthy, and accommodating public transportation systems that can support the free and full movement of all persons. We believe that one of the essential ingredients to accomplishing this is to support the recruitment, retention and promotion of women as workers in the transportation industry at all levels (mechanics, conductors, drivers, owners, managers, etc.). However, women around the world are underrepresented in transport jobs.
Creating safe, healthy and inclusive sustainable urban mobility is also constrained by the very limited research and evidence base that explores the connection between gender and sustainable mobility in Africa which planners and decision-makers can use to inform their efforts. There is, thus an urgent need to engage universities, civil society organizations, women workers and women transport users across Africa in creating an informed and strong voice for women in the development of safe, healthy, accessible, sustainable urban mobility for all across the continent. The 2019 Women & Transport Africa Conference will focus mostly on road transport in urban and peri-urban spaces and is closely linked with Sustainable Development Goal 11.2 to “provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons”.
The Second Annual Women & Transportation African Conference, organized by Flone Initiative and the World Resource Institute Africa, will provide a platform for practitioners, researchers, policy makers and other key stakeholders to engage in skill-building, idea-sharing and experiential learning that will inspire new solutions to transport challenges faced by women and other vulnerable road users.
The conference seeks to bridge the gap between research and policy initiatives pertaining to urban planning, public safety and gender-based violence issues and the real-world challenges facing women currently working in the transportation sector.
- To share research relating to gender and road transport, disseminate knowledge and experiences, and provide simple tools and methodologies for cities to collect data and do their own research.
- To provide a platform for diverse stakeholders to convene and propose innovative and concrete next steps on how to address challenges facing women in transportation.
- To empower and build capacity and community between women workers and women influencing policy and research in public transportation in Africa.
- Employability – Recruitment, retention and promotion of women in the transportation industry; working conditions, opportunities for success and advancement and the barriers faced by women in terms of professional development.
- Travel Planning & Safety – Gender differences in travel behavior, attitudes and preferences as well as gender differences in behavior due to perceived or actual crime, harassment, and security in various transportation planning.
- Inclusivity – Ensuring that real stories are highlighted; that practitioners have a prominent voice and that ALL people are represented (members of the deaf community, people living with disabilities, youth, elderly people, etc.).
- Environment – (Pollution and climate change; low-carbon transport solutions; how do the solutions that currently exist take gender into consideration or not in regards to health, non-motorized transport, electric mobility, and valuing the natural world around us; building a different relationship to development
 Calvo, C. M. (1994). Case Study on the Role of Women in Rural Transport: Access of women to domestic facilities (SSATP Working paper 11). World Bank. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.548.962&rep=rep1&type=pdf
 SPDC. (2014). Rapid assessment of sexual harassment in public transport and connected spaces in Karachi. Asian Development Bank. Retrieved from https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/project-document/152881/44067-012-tacr-19.pdf
 United Nations. (2015). The world’s women 2015: Trends and statistics. New York: UN. Retrieved from https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/downloads/worldswomen2015_report.pdf
 Bradshaw, S., Castellino, J., & Diop, B. (2013). Women’s roles in economic development: Overcoming the constraints. Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN). Retrieved from http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/130520-Women-Economic-Development-Paper-for-HLP.pdf