WOMEN IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT @ URBAN MOBILITY INDIA 2018

Urban Mobility India (UMI) is an annual flagship event of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), focusing on the urban transport development in India. UITP was happy to join as Knowledge Partner for 11th edition of Urban Mobility India 2018. The event was organised in Nagpur, Maharashtra from 02-05 November 2018. 

UITP supported two sessions - (i) Women in Public Transport - 02 November 2018 and (ii) Promoting Electric Buses in India - 03 November 2018

The session of Women in Public Transport was very interesting and some of the key points discussed during the session are as follows: The session was a facilitated discussed the current scenario of women in public transport, key challenges faced by them and some solutions towards overcoming these challenges. Mr. Jerome Pourbaix, Senior Director, Global Growth at UITP presented findings from UITP’s global research on ‘Women in Public Transport’ and later moderated the session. He called for gender neutrality being a strategic priority of the public transport organisation and not just a planning or design feature. His presentation highlighted the need to focus on the varying needs women users compared to men while planning for public transport and also pointed the need to encourage greater participation of women workforce in the public transport sector.

The panellists for the session included Mr. Shomik Mehndiratta from the World Bank, Ms. Anju Pandey from UN Women and Ms. Kalpana Viswanath from Safetipin. Mr. Shomik highlighted three of the key challenges faced by women in public transport:

  1. Public transport systems are predominantly planned and designed by men for men, thereby missing women’s perspective on their specific needs and enablers needed for greater inclusion. Even in cases where gender perspectives are included they are largely seen as a design feature, thereby not addressing the issue in its entirety.
  2. Local cultural stereotypes that prevent women for using public transport to access jobs, schools and other avenues that aren’t located close enough to walk
  3. Fear of sexual harassment on public transport

Ms. Anju highlighted that while sexual harassment faced by women in public transport is a key issue, there are other major barriers women face. For eg. affordability as a key constraint faced by women in using public transport. Women have lesser disposable income to spend on transport which many times deprives them of the accessibility provided by public transport, as it may be too expensive for them. She also highlighted the low rate of women workforce within public transport agencies. This is consistent with the overall workforce participation rate of women in urban India which reduce from 32% to 24% over the past decade and calls for urgent corrective action towards improving the situation.

Ms. Kalpana presented the findings of Safetipin’s efforts towards promoting women’s safety in the public transport sector. She pointed out that many times harassment of women happens before or after using the public transport system and cities should carry out gender-specific audits of their infrastructure to incorporate design features that promote women’s safety. She also highlighted the lack of data on issues faced by women in various contexts of using public transport, which is a key barrier towards informed decision making to improve the situation. On the issue of limited women workforce within transit agencies, she recommended taking up measures like improved basic amenities like rest-rooms, flexible working hours etc. to encourage more women to feel safe at the work place.

The discussion also discussed various other solutions towards improving women’s safety in public transport. For eg. majority of the funding by Government of India (GoI) under the ‘Nirbhaya Scheme’ was spent on cctv cameras for improved surveillance. The panel highlighted the limited success-rate of such measures and instead advised agencies to focus on more critical items like better lighting at bus stops and terminals, gender-specific planning of infrastructure and services etc. The audience highlighted the need to include women’s issues within the general decision making framework and not as an additional feature or cost item for the transit agency.

In conclusion the need for including voice of women at various levels of decision making, respecting their choices, including them as a strategic priority for the transit agency and ensuring their safety were agreed as the way forward to improve the current condition on women in public transport in India.