Published on Arab Voices

Addressing women’s safety concerns in public transport in Jordan to boost their economic activity

Personnes rassemblées dans un centre de transport en Jordanie. (2015 , Campagne de 'Maan Nasel') Personnes rassemblées dans un centre de transport en Jordanie. (2015 , Campagne de 'Maan Nasel')

Globally, real and perceived threats of violence in transport and in public spaces in general, such as sexual harassment, represent one of the biggest mobility barriers affecting women disproportionately more than men. Lack of safe transport can translate into girls missing schools, women not looking for jobs far away from home, giving up their jobs, or being unable to access health or child care services. According to the International Labor Organization, limited access to and safety of transportation is estimated to be the greatest obstacle to women’s participation in the labor market in developing countries, reducing their participation probability by 16.5%.

The negative impact of the lack of adequate transportation is likely more significant in countries with big gender gaps in the labor market. A case in point is Jordan, where only 14% of women are involved in the labor force compared to 64% for their male counterparts. According to a 2018 study, 47% of women surveyed in Jordan reported to have turned down job opportunities due to the current state of public transportation, naming availability, affordability, and sexual harassment as some of the main reasons. In this context, addressing mobility challenges is critical to enhancing female labor force participation and boosting economic growth. 

What can be done to address this mobility challenge?

At the end of 2018, the Government of Jordan (GoJ), with the support of the World Bank, developed the Code of Conduct (CoC) to regulate passenger, driver and operator conduct in public transport. The CoC was conceived during the preparation of the Jordan Second Equitable Growth & Job Creation Programmatic Development Policy Financing provided by the World Bank, and is being led by the GoJ as part of its ongoing and envisaged reforms to improve quality of public transport service. The CoC makes references to sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination as some of its infringements, mandates the provision of public feedback mechanisms to report CoC transgressions, and sets indicators to monitor the progress.

With the support of the Mashreq Gender Facility (MGF) and in coordination with the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW), the World Bank and the Ministry of Transport (MoT) embarked on the work to operationalize the CoC and create a more amenable mobility experience for all public transport users, men and women alike. "The efforts to address violations on public transport tend to be associated with specific operations, e.g. addressing gender based violence on a specific bus or a rail operation in one specific city," said Minister of Transport, Khalid Walid Saif. "The distinctiveness of this Code of Conduct that we are implementing is that it involves sector-wide change and therefore we hope it will yield the desired impact on a larger scale."

Despite the delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Bank and government teams have made notable progress in operationalizing the CoC from the beginning of this year. Most of the efforts have so far been concentrated on the development of a mobile application to report CoC transgressions, which required a nuanced understanding of the cultural environment to ensure that on one hand, app users are not put in danger when reporting a case, and on the other, swift actions are taken.

May Mansour, Project Manager for SADAQA explains further: "As a women’s economic rights group working on removing structural barriers preventing women in Jordan from entry to the labor force, including the lack of efficient and safe public transport, we believe that the CoC app will be a tool for women users of public transport to make their voices heard, whether to provide feedback on services or to report serious violations that require immediate intervention," she said. Discussions are currently ongoing with various parties to decide which platform will host the app to process the feedback sent by app users.

Moving forward

In the coming months, the World Bank and government teams will convene a series of focus groups with public transport users to explore their perceptions of the app. They will explore which app design will be further refined and finalized and will complete the design of the training material and develop the communication plan to be launched to promote the app and raise awareness of the CoC.


Nato Kurshitashvili

Senior Gender Specialist

Mira Morad

Transport Specialist

Gaelle Samaha

Transport Consultant

Sahar Aloul

Development Consultant and Women's Rights Activist

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