Master Class On ‘Thinking Mobility: Gender and Transport’ @IIHS, Bangalore

Date: 12-04-2016
Venue: Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Bangalore
Event description: There has been increased attention to women’s safety in public transport and public spaces since 2012. The accounts of sexual violence in the public sphere and Nirbhaya’s death in December 2012 galvanized action by civil society and different levels of government in creating safer public transportation systems. However, there is a limited understanding of the inter-relationships between gender and transport as current interventions predominantly focus on prevention of spectacular incidents of violence.

How are urban transportation systems, infrastructure and institutions gendered?
How can we understand gender inequality in urban transportation?
What kinds of initiatives have cities in India and globally undertaken and what can we learn from them?

This interactive master class provides an overview of the literature on gender and transport globally and focuses on the initiatives, gaps and case studies in making our urban transport systems gender equitable.

Experience summary
In the beginning of this class, instructor Sonal Shah asked us to share our expectations from this class. After collecting our thoughts, she clarified to all of us, “what this master class is about and what it is not about”. This Master Class was about understanding relationships between gender, urban planning and related policy measures in place.

The session commenced through a brief introduction and our impressions about the topic of master class, ‘Thinking Mobility: Gender and Transport’. Our opinions could be categorized into categories such as, ‘User friendliness, Comfortable, Economical, Gender Neutral, Employment generator’ etc.

At the start of this sessions, we glanced on some statistics about access to sustainable transport to both male and female population. The survey clearly indicated about the inferior access to both private and public means of transportation to women. That is the case, when women are assuming a higher shared of their households travel burden. Regardless of the survey results available, more has to be done to engage with policymakers to understand needs of both the genders, more importantly the needs of women.

From the recent Indian Census, it can be clearly seen that growing motorization in India post liberal policies created dense and congested cities. But this motorization is mostly driven by men, even though participation of women in the work force has increased. This has raised couple of questions. Important of them was, Women’s ability to work is part of inclusion or imperative?

Various questions have left unanswered even in surveys. Because, there seems to be lack of understanding on how gender movement can play a better role in the society. In India, it got more attention post Nirbhaya case in 2013. Since then, various efforts have been made to prevent such incident or addressing the emergency situations. But, the understanding of how gender shapes daily mobility was missing.
After each of the statistics presented, instructor encouraged us to share our thoughts.

We also discussed discussed the infrastructure problem, mobility of care(and leisure), and forced mobility. Participants also shared opinions on social constraints and culturally based normalization(especially during the act of violence). I learn some concepts in Urban Mobility Like trip chaining, accompanying co-workers and time.

Thanks to increasing awareness, the shift in perception has been visible in surveys about reporting crimes. In the last part of the first session, we discussed more about improvement areas in public transportation. Some of them have been already tried in parts of the world and others have been suggested. It included service planning and expectations, information and signage, supporting infrastructure, safety audits, institutional framework, and how one can participate in ongoing drive to make public transportation more sustainable.

After the break, we got a sneak peek into case studies from other cities. The case studies included initiative taken by various cities and visible impact resulted from from those efforts. On the top of all discussions, it was felt that special emphasis is needed on gender mobility in every master plan. It will help to understand needs of everyone, thereby making public transport more sustainable.

The planning of transportation services has to also take consideration of women, since most of them travel during non-peak hours.

We discussed the case studies of London, Toronto, and Bangalore. In Bangalore, there has been challenges in finding women to work for drivers position at BMTC(Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation). Some progress have been made in organizational level through the formation of Women’s Safety Committee. About London, we got to know about Transport for London(TFL) plan. It has mandate to make 90% services within 4 km reach of the commuters. Special efforts have been taken to make travel safely during the nights. About Toronto, we heard about Toronto Transit Commission(TTC). The efforts taken over there were comprehensive safety audit of the system, setting up an internal task-force within every department as well hiring women as front-line workers.

The session ended with promise to take this dialogue forward to others. Entire session was very interesting and very engaging. I hope to attend more of Prof. Sonal Shah’s classes in future. Sustainable Transport is a need of time and more informed dialogue will be one more step towards achieving one.

(Based on personal experiences. Need not to be true to the minute details)

About the instructor

Sonal Shah is an architect-urban planner. She has coordinated projects, research and publications across urban spatial planning, transport, gender and livelihoods with a consistent theme – using grounded research to influence planning policy and practice.

She has worn multiple hats in engagement with government agencies, academic institutions, non-profit organizations and the private sector in USA and in India. She has presented in numerous conferences including Walk 21 (Munich), Eco-mobility Conference (Seoul), Talking Transit (Bhopal) and Connect Karo (Mumbai). More about her works and academic publications can be read here.

More information:
Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Facebook page
Indian Institute of Human Settlements, website

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