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blog: Women Mobilize Women

Author: Ruby Stringer

On 22nd May 2018 I attended the first ever Women Mobilize Women Conference, a pre-event to the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany. The clever title of this event evokes two key 'calls to action':

  1. Transport must be planned for women as well as men – they must be included in the conversation when planning transport and we must endeavour to meet their needs, which can be different to those of men.
  2. Transport must be planned by women (alongside men). There needs to be an explicit commitment by the entire sector to improving women’s participation in every aspect of transport planning and policy. The deliberately provocative tagline for the conference was ‘When transport is planned by men, transport is planned for men’. 

The conference was an incredibly inspiring day. More than 120 attendees, only female speakers and moderators for all panels and presentations, and an unbelievable buzz of inspiration and motivation across all the participants. The group was incredibly diverse, with women from every continent (excluding Antarctica for obvious reasons) and from public, private, non-profit, NGO, donor bank, and research organisations. It represented an unprecedented opportunity to connect with inspirational women who are doing incredible work across the globe to help improve conditions not only for women and girls, but for everyone.

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Globally, women account for over 60% of the public-transport and Non-Motorised-Transport using population. Yet Sustrans' research found that, in the UK alone, less than 22% of people working in the transport sector are female. Internationally, this disparity is even more marked. The conference began to highlight the myriad ways innovative and passionate women are beginning to change this situation, and truly ‘levelling the playing field’. Just one example is Esenam Nyador, or ‘Miss Taxi’, from Ghana - who has been increasing women’s participation in an the all-male field of commercial driving. Starting with driving her own taxi, she soon realised there was a gap in the market for a loyal, reliable taxi company with a unique selling point – all-female drivers. 

The conference was a great opportunity to share insights on new gender-related projects, one of which was ITP's recent collaboration with UN WOMEN which aimed to help address gender issues on public transport in Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea

Our partners from the Papua New Guinea and Australian Transport Authorities were both at the conference and excited about the potential for increasing the capacity for data collection and visualisation of transport routes to better understand how and where people move within the city.  

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The recurring theme throughout the conference was very clearly perseverance. Chairwoman Shreya Gadapalli made a very pertinent point. Success for policy recommendations, for licence granting, and for changing perceptions requires a lot of luck. But, she says, luck is a product of perseverance – being there, and being ready with your ideas for when they do become politically palatable and most relevant to the policy context in which you are working. Although this may not directly relate to the work ITP is doing, it serves as an important reminder that opportunities to continue working on good projects, with good clients, for the good of people is not only possible, but is almost a responsibility.  ITP's team has such a huge passion and knowledge for sustainable transport, and the radical change-makers are out there for us to work with, if only we persist with our ideals and our vision for improving the way the world moves.

Ruby will be presenting a paper at this years Transport Practitioners' Meeting in Oxford (5-6 July) on combining a text reporting system for harassment with a Quality Incentive Contracting system in order to improve the safety of women and girls on buses, with a focus on emerging economies. 


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