How to mainstream gender in transport? It should not be complicated for transport engineers

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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.

ImageFor example, original research started as early as late 1990s showed that-- as seen in the case of rural Africa --women carry the primary transport burden. 


More recently, a successful transport project in Peru showed the benefits of improving quality of roads as well as road maintenance in responding  to differentiated daily needs for both men and women.

Moving on to simple transportation solutions. From my experience I can say that despite the good work done so far, there is still confusion and misunderstanding as to what it means to mainstream gender in operations, particularly in transport.  As clearly explained by the ILO, “mainstreaming is not about adding a "woman's component" or even a "gender equality component" into an existing activity. It goes beyond increasing women's participation; it means bringing the experience, knowledge, and interests of women and men to bear on the development agenda.” In transport, there are simple and basic ways in which gender affects and is affected by transport policies and projects. 


ImageThat means, practical approaches can be found to address gender-related problems in transport projects. Our recent guidance paper highlights examples of entry points for mainstreaming gender into various road project contexts in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. The paper also identifies opportunities where women can play a role in the planning and implementation of road transport operations, particularly through participatory approaches and labor-based road construction.

Let’s start with safety across gender. To understand the full spectrum of the gender implications of policy challenges for transport, the issue of safety is a case in point. Safety is a perfect example of the dynamics that affect both men and women when it comes to transportation. Women’s concerns about personal safety risks at transportation facilities which can affect the way women decide to travel (parking lots, buses and bus stops) should be considered when designing public transport fleet and facilities. In 2000, the Bank conducted a study that analyzed the differences in men’s and women’s use of two modes of transportation: bikes and buses. The study found that the top four priorities for these types of public transit for women were security from theft and harassment; road safety (accidents); expenses and comfort.

But safety issues are also an issue for men. Statistics reveal that men are more likely to be involved in accidents than women partly because they take more risks.  For example, it is estimated 55 percent of road traffic deaths in ECA countries are among people aged 15–44, mostly among those aged 15–29; more than 80 percent of these deaths are men.

On average, according to the WHO, men aged less than 25 years are nearly three times as likely as women of that age to be killed in a road-traffic accident.

We have to continue to consistently look at the various gender aspects of transportation, beyond physical engineering.  That is the only way to ensure that gender mainstreaming, leveraging both the positive and negative impacts on men and women, will happen and will transcend the developmental agenda.


For more information: Update on World Bank Gender and Transport Activities


Julie Babinard

Senior Transport Specialist

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