Saturday, 27 August 2016

Towards A Gender Inclusive Public Transportation Policy

In spite of the significant progress women have made in almost all areas of public life; the issue of public transportation continues to be a sore point regarding gender equality. Regrettable, women still continue to feel unsafe in the public arena and much more needs to be done to reverse this trend. The journey to women’s fundamental right to freedom of movement continues to be plagued by male-induced harassment. For example, in Bogota, Columbia, ranked as the most dangerous city for a woman to take public transport in the world, six in every ten women report physically harassment while travelling. This is most unacceptable and requires government intervention to address this issue. A report issued by Plan International captured the fear of violence felt by adolescent girls in specific developing cities of Kampala, Delhi and Lima. Gender inequality has many variations and requires many interventions to bring about equality. There is an urgent need to include women in the discourse regarding public transportation. Regrettable, women are often left out of the decision making process in many areas of development. Disturbingly, the same research states that in Delhi, only 3.3 % of females reported always feeling safe while using public transport. Meanwhile, in Lima, only 2.2 % of females claim to feel secure when walking in public spaces. In Kampala, over 80 % of young women stated that they do not feel safe whilst in urban transition in general. While Jamaica was included in this Asia based research there are common themes for females worldwide. Many Jamaican women and girls are sexually harassed daily on our roads as well as on public transportation. Sadly, as a society we have developed and continue to nurture a culture of silence. This code of silence affects both sexes and facilitates the perpetuation of the verbal, sexual and physically harassment women experience daily on public transportation, in their private lives, as well as, in the public sphere. For the most part public transportation across the globe is traditionally a male dominated area in which policy makers and governments have not seriously sought to address gender inequality which characterizes the sector. In order to rectify this we need to work towards an inclusive public transportation policy in which the concerns of women are included in order to achieve sustainable development.
Policy makers must be mindful of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), otherwise known as the global goals in drafting policies. Of note is SDG 11 which speaks to making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, as well as, SDG 5 which emphasizes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in society. Gender-based harassment whether in urban or rural areas is nothing to smile about and needs urgent attention. Our women and girls must feel a sense of safety and security as they go about their daily business. We will never attain sustainable development without first embracing a culture of gender equality.  
In the words of Kofi Annan, gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
Wayne Campbell