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What’s in World Bank’s new toolkit on making urban transport better for Indian women?

World Bank: What does it say, why is it important, and how can it assist decision-makers and urban planners in creating more effective urban transportation infrastructure?

The World Bank unveiled a “Toolkit on Enabling Gender Responsive Urban Mobility and also Public Spaces in India” on December 8 to offer suggestions for improving the accessibility of women’s travel needs in Indian cities’ public transportation systems.

The toolkit places a strong emphasis on the necessity of incorporating a gender lens into transportation policies and infrastructure while also offering several suggestions for interventions that can help make urban transportation safer overall, particularly for women. It combines 50 case studies of top initiatives and methods from around the globe, focusing on the Indian context.

Women’s financial independence and agency are hampered by inadequate public transportation.

According to studies, women are among the most significant users of public transportation in Indian cities, particularly those who belong to lower socioeconomic groups. Their reliance on public transport is a result of having a less discretionary income. Additionally, women’s mobility patterns are distinctive; they frequently travel shorter distances, utilise multiple modes of transportation, and travel with dependents during “off-peak hours.”

Urban mobility systems do not currently cater for these particular requirements of women. This may increase their costs, inconvenience, and safety concerns when they travel, further burdening an already vulnerable group of people. Even though many women use public transportation daily out of necessity, the condition of these systems has a significant influence on several decisions that women make.

According to studies, women’s access to education and employment opportunities is significantly impacted by the availability of safe, affordable, and reliable public transportation, which hurts their quality of life. At just 30% in 2019–20, India’s female labour force participation rate ranks among the lowest in the world. Women’s access to better employment opportunities is frequently cited as severely hampered by a lack of efficient urban transportation.

Studies have also demonstrated how women’s choice of colleges and other educational institutions, and consequently their financial independence and agency, are influenced by their proximity to their homes.

Three main issues are safety, effectiveness, and cost.

When using public transportation, women face significant barriers due to a lack of safety and confidence in the situation’s safety. Some of the difficulties in this regard include inadequate street lighting, dependable last-mile transportation, and long wait times at outlying bus stops.

india: making public transport more women-friendly

In addition to being safe, public transportation infrastructure needs to be seen as safe, as it is a perception that influences decisions to use such transportation. A vicious cycle is created when safety concerns discourage women from using public transit: unsafe vehicles prevent women from travelling, which discourages them from being in public places, making those places even more dangerous.

Women bear a main disproportionate amount of the burden of care work, which is typically unpaid. As a result, they frequently need to plan their travel much more carefully than men because they must balance a variety of obligations at home and at work.

For instance, a main working mother might have to coordinate her travel plans with her child’s school schedule and her husband’s work schedule. This means that women have a much greater need for timely, dependable, and efficient public transportation, and that longer wait times and delays negatively affect them.

Additionally, the cost of travel is higher for women. This is primarily due to two causes.

To fulfil their many obligations, women must first piece together a variety of quick commutes. For instance, a working mother’s typical day might include commutes from home to school, and back to home, then to her place of employment, before returning to school and home. This practise, known as “trip chaining” by the World Bank, raises the price of travel.

Second, because they believe they will be safer, women frequently choose to take certain more expensive routes or modes of transportation. For instance, rather than travelling through “unsafe areas,” women frequently choose longer routes that are perceived as being safer.

Together, these elements create a “pink tax” that burdens women in particular and prevents them from making the best choices for themselves.

What suggestions does the World Bank toolkit make?

The World Bank recommends a four-pillared strategy to help address persistent problems with women’s urban transportation.

First, more work needs to be done to understand the current situation from a gender perspective. Major gaps caused by gender-blind planning and infrastructure development specifically affect women but are frequently hidden from view. Getting a better understanding of these gaps is the first step in filling them. An honest assessment of the problems affecting women must come before any new transportation policies or infrastructure improvements.

Second, policies and development plans must take women’s concerns into account once the dominant issues have been identified. More women need to hold decision-making positions in important institutions for this to happen. Women’s needs are likely to always come second until they are adequately represented. So, the first step in actually incorporating a gender lens into public transportation planning and development is to involve and empower more female stakeholders.

women biggest users of public transport in india: world bank report | mint

Third, the toolkit places a strong emphasis on fostering community action and required programmes among service providers to increase gender sensitivity and awareness. Everyone, from the bus driver to the neighbourhood beat constables, needs to be aware of women’s concerns and how to address them.

Fourth, money needs to be invested in better services and infrastructure with a focus on gender-inclusive design. In general, expanding services and bolstering infrastructure is a good idea, but if these developments are made with a particular gender lens, they will be much more beneficial. For instance, while building new bus stops is a good thing, it would be even better if these stops had levels with the bus floors, sufficient lighting, SOS buttons, and clean restrooms.

The toolkit recommends a number of concrete interventions, such as the construction of wide, obstruction-free footpaths, street lighting, clear signage, designated bicycle lanes, the introduction of short, winding bus routes, and the subsidisation or elimination of public transportation fees for women.

Who is this toolkit useful for?

The toolkit, according to the World Bank, includes useful resources that can educate a variety of policymakers as well as private or community-based organisations. This toolkit is intended to serve as a resource for any organisation working on projects involving public transportation and urban mobility. This tool kit not only offers a variety of useful interventions, but it also highlights some of the thematic problems that may arise in this environment.

It’s important to note that the goal of this toolkit is not to add gender as a new area of concern for decision-makers and developers. In order to make our cities safer and also more accessible for women, it is instead important to incorporate a gender lens into regular planning and development.

Four pillars of the strategy

The World Bank proposed a four-pillared strategy to help address persistent problems with women’s urban transportation. As follows:

first strategy-

Greater effort needs to be made to view the current situation from the perspective of gender.
Major gaps caused by gender-blind planning and infrastructure development specifically affect women but are frequently hidden from view.
Getting a better understanding of these gaps is the first step in filling them.
An honest assessment of the problems affecting women must come before any new transportation policies or infrastructure improvements.

2nd strategy

The concerns of women must be reflected in policies and development plans once the dominant issues have been identified.
More women need to hold decision-making positions in important institutions for this to happen. Women’s needs are likely to always come second until they are adequately represented.
So, the first step in actually incorporating a gender lens into public transportation planning and development is to involve and empower more female stakeholders.

world bank's flagship gender toolkit launched

Third strategy-

The toolkit places a strong emphasis on fostering gender sensitivity and awareness among service providers through required initiatives and neighbourhood engagement.
Everyone should be aware of the worries that women have and how to address them, from the bus driver to the neighbourhood beat constables.

Fourth method –

According to this, money needs to be invested in better infrastructure and services with a focus on gender-neutral design.
In general, expanding services and bolstering infrastructure is a good idea, but if these developments are made with a particular gender lens, they will be much more beneficial.
For instance, while building new bus stops is a good thing, it would be even better if these stops had levels with the bus floors, sufficient lighting, SOS buttons, and clean restrooms.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma

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