New toolkit launched to help cities prevent public transport harassment of women

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A new toolkit to help cities address sexual harassment on public transport has been launched as a follow-up to the FIA Foundation’s Ella Se Mueve Segura (She Moves Safe) study.

There has traditionally been a gap between city planners’ understanding of public transport and the needs and experiences of women. The study concluded that the majority of women using public transport in Latin American cities have witnessed or experienced harassment, having examined the patterns of public transport use by women across the Latin American cities of Quito in Ecuador, Buenos Aires in Argentina, and Santiago, Chile.

The toolkit was developed to provide cities with the support needed to properly assess their transport planning, to understand how women travel, how to better meet their needs and in that way promote sustainable transport in order to achieve sustainable development and inclusive cities.

The toolkit was debuted by Heather Allen, the lead consultant of the project, at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 2019 Annual Meeting in Washington DC on January 16.

Key findings of the report included the fact that a greater proportion of women feel unsafe than men across all cities surveyed; the worst rates were in Buenos Aires, where 72% of women feel unsafe, and 89% of women interviewed had experienced sexual harassment. It also identified that women actively avoid public transport where they perceive the risk of harassment to be too high. Seven out of ten women in Buenos Aires will not travel on public transport alone and half of women in Santiago will change their routes to avoid specific areas of the city.

Integrated and safe public transport systems provide access to education, employment, healthcare, cultural and other important activities and are crucial to women's participation in society overall, as well as, increasing their contribution to economic growth. CAF estimates that improving women's participation in the workforce in Latin America could add an additional 34% to the region's GDP, and that their role in the Latin American ‘economic miracle’ with average growth rates of around 5% between 2002 and 2008 was crucial. Increasingly, women are sole breadwinners in some of the poorest families, and are only able to access employment through the use of public transport.

Sheila Watson, FIA Foundation Deputy Director, said: “Women have personal rights to be safe, to be respected, and to achieve their potential, but our research shows that traditional systems of public transportation delivery and management are failing to keep them safe.

This toolkit gives cities the framework to identify and address the failures to address women’s needs and concerns around public transport. This is crucial because not only are women are more likely to avoid public transport if they have negative experiences, but they also make choices for their families – which could undermine our broader ambitions for sustainable mobility and sustainable development if they pass on their concerns. We are providing the tools to help cities make better choices for all their citizens – they must now have the political will to use it.”

Heather Allen said: Women are usually the poorest of the poor so affordable and safe public transport has huge impact on their lives and helping uplift them out of poverty. The Ella se mueve study / She moves safely shows that there are many similarities between cities and the toolkit provides guidelines to cities on how to make transport more gender sensitive, safe and sustainable.”