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Empowering local women to build a more equitable future in Vietnam

Phuong Thi Minh Tran's picture


Vietnam’s economic emergence is perhaps best experienced along its rural roads: more than 175,000 kilometers of pavement, rubble and dirt track extend to two-thirds of the country’s population, including nearly all of the poorest people, who live among its productive farms, lush forests and meandering river valleys.

In recent years, road investments in Vietnam’s rural areas have improved socioeconomic development and promoted gender equity, social participation, improved school attendance, and more inclusive health services to impoverished regions. However, all but a few hundred communes remain off-grid, and infrastructural roadblocks and bureaucratic potholes have delayed the goal of a fully integrated road system.

The World Bank’s Third Rural Transport Project (RTP3) supported a win-win solution: employing ethnic minority women to sustainably manage road maintenance through an innovative participatory approach to local development. This blog entry describes the experience of improving the roads — and women’s lives — in rural Vietnam. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way:

Lesson 1: Solutions can come from unexpected sources.
The RTP3 task team’s investigation showed that up to a third of the population in Vietnam’s Northern Uplands provinces would be expected to contribute up to 10 percent of their total annual household expenditure to ensure safe passage along local roads — too much for most to afford. Furthermore, even when adequate resources are made available for maintenance, contractors have sometimes been unwilling to work in inaccessible regions for fear of mudslides during the rainy season.

The Rio Via Lilas initiative: Using transport infrastructure to help reduce gender-based violence

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
A train decorated with a "Via Lilas" awareness campaign leaves Rio's Central Station.
Follow Shomik (@shomik_raj) and Daniel (@danpulido) on Twitter

There was cause for celebration at the State of Rio de Janeiro’s Office of Women’s Affairs last week. The office had just launched a new program that provides support and legal assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, which was covered by a wide range of media and commemorated by a visit from senior World Bank leadership to Brazil.

Our team is currently visiting Rio to help with activities for this new program, called “Via Lilas.” Rio’s government has a lot to cheer about; the program is both innovative and significant.  Its primary component is a system of electronic kiosks, placed at stations along Supervia suburban rail lines, which contain helpful information about how women can seek support for gender-based violence.
 
Women using a "Via Lilas" kiosk

The placement of these kiosks is strategic; the Supervia provides some of the poorest communities in the region access to jobs and services. 

​The rail service connects downtown Rio de Janeiro to the periphery in this sprawling metropolitan area of more than 4,500 square kilometers and 12 million people. Outlying parts of the metropolitan area, such as the community of Japeri, can be more than two hours by train to Rio’s Central station.

​The “Via Lilas” kiosks will be placed at high-profile locations along the Supervia system, providing easy information access to the approximately 700,000 passengers who use the rail network each day.

​Smart measures in transport: Moving beyond women’s-only buses

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture
Civil society has been dealing with the problem of sexual harassment in public spaces in innovative ways. Creative marketing campaigns are popping all over the world, including Take Back the Metro in Paris, Chega de Fiu Fiu in Brazil, and Hollaback in 84 cities around the world.
 
The problem seems to stem from strong, ingrained cultural beliefs. Unfortunately, the problem might be getting stronger as formal barriers to the participation of women decline, as suggests Marty Langelan, a World Bank consultant, professor of American University.

 
Bus operators receive harassement
response training.
Specialists know that the complexity of the problem requires changes in social norms, and that this can only come from comprehensive approaches and time. Some governments may acknowledge the same; however, they still have to deal with the pressing urgency of the theme, and therefore adopt quick, pragmatic solutions.

Currently, countries like Mexico, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and Nepal all have some form of women-only cars in public transportation.

While there are strong arguments that these women-only cars are effective temporary solutions, in the long-term they could reinforce the stereotypes of uncontrollable men and victimized women. They also remind us of the United States Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson, which considered constitutional segregated black and white populations in public facilities under the idea of “separate but equal.”

In Argentina, a road that connects the present and the past of indigenous women

Verónica Raffo's picture
Also available in: Español
 

 
If someone asked you what can boost gender equality in rural and indigenous communities in Latin America, a road would probably not be your first answer.

Well, think again!

During a recent trip to northern Argentina, we visited one of the main attractions in the area: the Qom Culture Route (QCR), a corridor of seven cultural centers led by artisan Qom women - 10% of the indigenous population in the country belongs to this ethnic group - spread along the recently paved Route 3 in the province of Chaco, as part of the Ministry of Federal Planning, Infrastructure and Services’ Norte Grande Road Infrastructure Project, with support from The World Bank. The project has helped build these women’s community centers and trained them in entrepreneurial, associative and commercial skills.

Porque somos más los que queremos que esto pare… Nuestra experiencia enfrentando la violencia de género en el transporte público

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Also available in: English
Siga a los autores en Twitter: @shomik_raj and @aldotudela7
 
El cuarto estaba en silencio. El grupo se encontraba sentado, pensante, con cada uno de los participantes pensando cómo resolver un problema complicado, callados. De repente, un hombre se levantó y habló en voz alta, “Tenemos que dejar algo claro, somos más los que queremos que esto pare”. Este sentimiento, expresado durante un taller realizado en la Ciudad de México, se convirtió en un poderoso punto de partida para la iniciativa en marcha que actualmente estamos realizando para entender y atacar la violencia de género en el transporte público.

La seguridad personal dentro y alrededor del sistema de transporte público [de la Ciudad de México] es un problema serio que caracteriza la experiencia de muchos en el transporte público, particularmente de las mujeres. Un estudio reciente del Instituto de las Mujeres del Distrito Federal reveló que alrededor del 65% de las mujeres usuarias del sistema de transporte público han sido víctimas de alguna modalidad de violencia de género dentro del sistema o entrando a él. Sin embargo, se sabe que solo una fracción de estos eventos se reporta… lo cual nos hace pensar que el porcentaje real puede ser mucho mayor.

Because there are more of us who want this to stop… Our experience taking on gender-based violence in public transport

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Also available in: Español
Follow the authors on Twitter: @shomik_raj and @aldotudela7
 
The room was quiet. The group sat, thoughtful, each one of the participants with their heads around a complicated issue, silent. Suddenly, one man stood up and spoke out, “We have to set something straight, there are more of us who want this to stop”. This sentiment, expressed during a focus group in Mexico City, has become a powerful anchor for an ongoing initiative we are undertaking to understand and address gender-based violence in public transport.

Personal security on and around Mexico City’s public transport system is a serious problem that frames the travel experience for many, particularly for women. A recent report by the Mexico City Women’s Institute showed that 65% of women using the system have suffered some form of sexual assault while on the system or when accessing it. However, there is little argument that only a fraction of these events are reported… which leads us to believe that the actual percentage could be much higher.

Harassment of Women in the Public Space and Transport

Julie Babinard's picture

For nearly a month, I have not read a single newspaper without an article on the harassment of women in the public space and transport.  In newspaper articles across the world, there is a brewing sentiment echoing the story of violence that a woman recently faced on a bus in Delhi.

The Future of Driving and Finding the Right Incentives for Behavior Change

Julie Babinard's picture

What would blogs be good for if it were not for their intent on steering a bit of controversy?
So here it is… I do not believe that behavior change interventions can effect lasting change in people’s travel patterns unless real choices are available to them within the local context.

What do existing household surveys tell us about gender? It depends which sector you ask

Julie Babinard's picture

A very good panel discussion this week on Gender Equality Data and Tools at the Bank reminded me of the research we did in transport on household surveys with my friend and a World Bank colleague, Kinnon Scott. In retrospect, this work should be better advertised as it touches upon many of the points that were raised on the importance of gender-relevant data for policy. The three main questions that follow permeate t

Overcoming Gaps in Transport Access in the Middle East and North Africa: Share Your Views

Julie Babinard's picture

Transport planning in MENA and other regions does not routinely address gender issues and sex disaggregated data is limited as is gender and transport expertise. In the MENA region, as in many other developing regions, women’s mobility is constrained by limited transport supply and also by social factors that can reduce the access of women to economic opportunities and voice in local decision-making.

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