CHENNAI, 8 December 2022 – The World Bank today launched a “Toolkit on Enabling Gender Responsive Urban Mobility and Public Spaces in India” with the aim of guiding Indian cities on how to design public transport that is more inclusive of women’s travelling requirements. Public transport services are not traditionally designed keeping in mind women’s safety and their specific travel needs. This severely limits their access to work, education and life choices. India has amongst the lowest female labor force participation rates globally, at 26.2 percent in 2020-21.
The World Bank toolkit, designed especially for Indian cities, recommends integrating a gender lens in new and existing transport policies and plans. It also asks for enhancing women's representation in decision-making in key institutions such as urban local bodies and public transport authorities. Doing this, especially at senior leadership and decision-making levels, can make women feel more seen. The continuing poor representation of women as frontline staff in public transport encourages a vicious cycle where women continue to feel unsafe in public transport.
The report also recommends several interventions in transport and public spaces, including adequate streetlighting, improved walking and cycling tracks that particularly benefit women who are big users of non-motorized transport. The report says that devising responsive fare policies can boost ridership for women and persons of other genders. Setting up a strong grievance redressal system can help fast-track sexual harassment complaints.
“As urban mobility systems expand, implementing agencies are feeling the need to address concerns of different genders and ensure safe and inclusive public spaces and public transport for women,” says Gerald Paul Ollivier, Lead Transport Specialist, World Bank, and co-author of the toolkit. “The toolkit brings together lessons learnt on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ through a series of 50 case studies from across India and the rest of the world, throwing light on interventions that have worked.”
Women are amongst the biggest users of public transport across Indian cities. Eighty-four percent of trips taken by women for work were estimated to be by public, intermediate public, and non-motorised transport. How men and women travel is also intrinsically different. More women tend to walk to work compared to men—45.4 percent versus 27.4 percent. More women also travel by bus and are likely to consider affordability into account when travelling. They often choose slower means of transport since faster modes are more expensive. Lack of safety also deters women from stepping out, reducing their presence in public spaces.
The toolkit recommendations are based on a study of more than 50 international best practices and efforts by cities across the world. Most notably, the toolkit recommendations draw on the team’s practical experience of designing and implementing gender responsive urban transport projects in Chennai, as part of the World Bank-supported Chennai City Partnership project. The newly formed Gender and Policy Lab in the Greater Chennai Corporation has also conceptualized a two-year action plan to ensure a safer and more inclusive city.
The toolkit contains practical tools that can inform a wide set of policymakers as well as private or community-based organisations to help ensure safe and inclusive public spaces and public transport for women in India.