Decoding women’s transport experiences - A study of Nairobi, Lagos, and Gauteng WIMT & TUMI
Most women experience safety and accessibility concerns over public transport. They make calculations daily on how best to reach their final destination: What will be the safest way to get to the bus stop? Will I be able to take my child with me? Can I walk home on my own when it is dark out? Will the driver of this vehicle assist me in case anything happens?
Despite the increasing numbers of women relying on public transport, and the general knowledge that transport is not gender neutral, many of these questions (and more) continue to go unresolved. Even when the answers exist, gender-specific needs are rarely integrated into the design, planning, and operation of existing systems.
This is largely due to the lack of readily available and openly accessible data on the issue. In emerging-market cities, where general mobility information is already hard to come by, obtaining genderdisaggregated data on public transport dynamics is even more of a challenge.
This study, led by WhereIsMyTransport in partnership with the Transforming Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), is guided by three objectives. First, to bridge this public transport gender data gap and provide novel insights on women’s mobility experience across African cities. We see this research as an opportunity to create the first fully-fledged and holistic research programme on the topic, providing an African counterpart to the 2018 World Bank study on women’s mobility in Latin America entitled Why Does She Move.⁵ Moreover, user-centric, qualitative data is often lacking from traditional transport analysis and is something we believe can provide a more empathetic view of what it really means to use public transport in these cities. We hope that the findings of this study will mainstream and highlight a new type of evidence that can be used in decision-making and inclusive transport planning considerations.
Second, to develop a mixed-methods research methodology that showcases innovative ways of collecting gendersensitive data. The literature review we conducted demonstrated that previous research studies in this field have tended to rely heavily on surveys as the main data collection methodology.
Findings would often be presented as aggregated percentage figures and tend to encompass women under one blanket term. Instead, our study attempted to complement survey findings and bring in qualitative research methodologies including ride-alongs, journey mapping workshops, and women-only focus group discussions. This user-centric approach was instrumental in revealing the specifics of the lived experience and helped to bring out particular behavioural details that shape greater quantitative patterns
Third, we wanted to steer the conversation away from ‘women’ as one homogenous group and instead highlight how women’s mobility needs and behaviours can differ significantly by age, occupation, and socio-economic level. Our research therefore took a comparative view of women commuters, and zoomed in at the level of different user-groups from students, working professionals, sex workers, stay-at-home mothers, to informal traders. Promoting inclusivity in transport systems starts with inclusive data collection that depicts behaviours, mobility needs, and capabilities on an individual level;