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Results Briefs November 12, 2020

Why Does She Move? A Study of Women’s Mobility in Latin American Cities

The report goes beyond identifying differences in mobility patterns between women and men, exploring women’s motivations to use public transport and access economic opportunities. It highlights that women’s mobility is defined by an interaction of variables, some of which are transport related, while others have to do with gender norms, individual, relational, and community factors. The recommendations are being operationalized in World Bank Transport financed operations in Belo Horizonte, Sao Paulo, Lima and Buenos Aires (FY2021).


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have recognized the relevance of the transport sector for urban development and inclusiveness (SDG11, Target 11.2). Designing gender responsive transport services is fundamental for the development of inclusive transport and public spaces, which will enable women’s access to economic opportunities.

The study, carried out in 2018 in the metropolitan regions of Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Lima demonstrated that women’s mobility is influenced not only by barriers that disproportionally affect women such as availability, affordability, acceptability and accessibility, but also by several factors at the community, household, and individual levels, which shape women’s capacity to make and act upon decisions about their mobility. Beyond the fear of assault and sexual harassment during the journey to work and inadequate provision of service that matches women’s needs; restrictive social norms related to women’s mobility and work, limited financial resources; negative work experiences, unequal division of care responsibilities, shortage of formal and informal care support, among others, deeply affect women’s mobility.


To address this knowledge gap, the research, financed by the Umbrella Facilitation for Gender Equality Trust Fund, used a qualitive approach that drew upon data collected from focus group discussions and interviews with women, men and key informants, in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Lima.

The World Bank also relied on an intense consultation with stakeholders. In Rio, the preliminary research design was presented and validated by the Transport Secretariat and Subsecretariat for Women’s Policies. Community leaders were engaged in each of the two sites selected to provide additional contextual information and support the team during data collection. The same process was repeated in Buenos Aires, where Ministries in charge of the Urban and Social Agenda, Federal Ministry of Transport and Buenos Aires Transport Secretariat were fully engaged throughout the process. In Lima, support to reach out to the communities was provided by the local community leaders.


The World Bank has also IPF operations in the three cities where the project was implemented. WB supervision teams designed and coordinated the implementation of the research methodology and provided guidance to research team. The analysis and recommendations from the report were used in 2019 to inform the design of three World Bank financed operations in Latin America: Lima Metropolitano Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) North Extension Project, São Paulo Aricanduva Bus Rapid Transit Corridor, and Improving Mobility and Urban Inclusion in the Amazonas Corridor in Belo Horizonte.

The report made it possible to help design gender interventions that acknowledge the complexity of women’s mobility and the interactions with aspects that go beyond transport infrastructure. This allowed projects to innovate while defining realistic and achievable outcomes. Some of the activities are: a) incorporation of gender based violence prevention in the environmental design of the BRTs, taking into considerations women’s safety perceptions and features such as lighting, openness and visibility; b) development of Response Protocols to respond to sexual harassment in public transport; c) training of bus operators on appropriate responses to sexual harassment; d) analysis of women’s barriers to active mobility and recommendations to encourage cycling, e) improvement of pedestrian infrastructure.

With support from the Mobility and Logistics (MOLO) Trust Fund, the report findings will also allow the enhancement of transport demand modeling from a gender perspective in Lima and the Callao by informing the design of a modal shift analysis. The analysis will incorporate the different barriers that women face as part of the stated and revealed preferences instruments, which will contribute to a gender responsive transport demand model that subsidizes the region’s strategic transport master plan.

An overview of the various factors that may affect women's mobility choices.

Bank Group Contribution

The Gender Equality (UFGE) Trust Fund (TF), is a World Bank Group multi-donor trust fund financing research, impact evaluations and data to help policy makers and practitioners close gender gaps in countries and sectors.


The UFGE multi-donor TF, contributed to financing this initiative with USD120,000. ountry donors of the UFGE include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Latvia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. MOLO multi-donor TF complemented the work with USD 3,000 for the development of the report.

Moving Forward

The recommendations from the report have been incorporated by our clients in Brazil, Peru and Argentina by informing the design of several transport operations, which are included in the project documents and measured through the results framework with specific output and outcome indicators. Moreover, the knowledge creation supported the development of the client’s Gender Action Plans (GAP) in 2020, which enhance the results by institutionalizing a plan that defines roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders. The recommendations are also measured through specific indicators to be added to the GAP. The dissemination efforts include outreach to key stakeholders, including civil society organizations, governmental agencies in the transport sector and non-transport sector, such as the Ministries of Women. The World Bank team plans to expand dissemination beyond the report’s three focus cities, such as Mexico City, Mexico and Quito, Ecuador.


The ultimate beneficiaries of the “Why does she move report?” are the women and men from the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Lima, Peru who will benefit from the implementation of the recommendations that will enable to design gender responsive transport systems. The mobility needs of low-income women regarding transport and access to economic opportunities can be illustrated through these quotations (confidential interviews):

  • 18-29-year-old woman in Rio de Janeiro: “I can’t say that I feel good when I am in the street waiting for a bus. But it is my duty. I must work… And if I don’t work, life gets more difficult. If I could choose, I’d stay at home and not go to work. I think about that every day. I would stay at home taking care of the children, taking them to school, to the doctor, everything.”
  • 18-29-year-old woman in Buenos Aires, low accessibility area: “The problem is at bus stops…When I’m waiting somewhere for a bus, I am frightened because the stops are full of people, and thieves go by on motorbikes or bicycles to steal from you. So we try to stay near to other people because when you are alone, it is scary. Frankly, I don´t even feel safe at the bus station.”
  • 30-50 year-old woman in Lima: “It’s dangerous at night, we join other people, other women. ‘Are you going to cross?’ they ask… and ‘we have to cross all together’ at the other end of the bridge, there are some bad people . There is a woman with a snack stand over there, and I try to stay friends with her just in case one day I might need her to help me. This woman has warned me that things are always happening there. You have to be careful."