During a trip to South Africa last week, I was saddened to read this newspaper headline: “24 people killed, 14 seriously injured, and 44 with minor injuries after bus smashed into a mountainside.” The bus was bringing people back to Cape Town's township of Khayelitsha from a church gathering in eastern Mpumalanga—most of the occupants were women and children.
A multi-lane highway with a speed limit exceeding 70 mph, a dirt road without shoulders or protective barriers, and a city street where child pedestrians and cyclists share space with cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles can be among the most dangerous places in the world.
Working in transport for development, our focus is often on the physical infrastructure that is needed to improve mobility and provide access to services and markets. Road safety is an issue that obliges us to focus on our clients: the young and vulnerable users of road networks around the world.
Saving Lives Through Safer Roads (World Bank story) U.N. Decade of Action on Road Safety aims to save five million lives, prevent 50 million road injuries.
On the 26th of September 2003 my best friend Jonathan was killed in a car crash in Nairobi, Kenya in East Africa. Jonathan was only 19 years old and had just joined University three weeks prior to the road crash to pursue a degree in information technology. A speeding drunk driver rammed into the vehicle Jonathan was in; causing the car to spin out of control severally. Jonathan along with another friend, were killed on the spot.
The ambiguities surrounding the interpretation of the word gender and what it means to ‘mainstream gender’ in relation to transport could prove to be a significant obstacle to those who plan and provide transport infrastructure and services, especially in developing economies.
The necessity to ensure gender equality as a primary goal in all area(s) of social and economic development was highlighted at the United Nations Fourth World Conference held in Beijing, China in 1995 and the concept of gender mainstreaming was defined by the 1997 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as 'a strategy for making women's as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of […] the policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated'.
The transport sector at the World Bank has been a leader in gender mainstreaming. The transport sector, as is the case in many other aspects of cross-sectoral interventions, has been leading the way in its response to the mainstreaming effort. Significant research has been undertaken along with the delivery of successful operations to address the specific needs and constraints of men and women in transportation.
Here is a quiz question for you: "You are driving on a highway and you suddenly realize that you just missed the intended exit ramp. What would you do?" Most people would hopefully say “Go to the next exit ramp.” However, as we recently found out, 12% of truck drivers in China said: “Back up or turn-around to the missed exit ramp.”