Barriers to Women's Mobility

Lead Research Organisation: Coventry University
Department Name: Ins for Future Transport & Cities


A fundamental issue in sustainable development is enabling those who lives and well being are at stake to be involved in decision making and lead the way through collective action and engagement. The centrality of gender equality, women's empowerment and the realization of women's rights in achieving sustainable development has been recognized (for example in the Rio Declaration of Environment and Development, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development). Women are critical agents in building more equitable, safer and sustainable societies.
Women in LMICs experience multiple levels of deprivation. They face constraints due to socio-cultural norms that deny them equal access to facilities and opportunities . They have limited access to resources; restricted rights, limited mobility and a muted voice in shaping decisions. They are under-represented and under-utilised in the economy and labour market and tend to predominate as unpaid family workers in agriculture, and hold low paid, low skill jobs and at the lowest tiers of the industrial labour force in urban areas. Pakistan ranks 128 out of 182 on Human Development Index (2010), 124 out of 155 on Gender Development Index (2009) and 132 out of 134 on the Global Gender Gap Report (2009). Malaysia ranked 111th (out of 145) on the Global Gender Gap Index for 2015, with an especially poor rating in the political arena. The UK, whilst in the top 20 (2016), is falling with women having 58% of the economic opportunity and 23% of political empowerment. Improving gender equality could add £150 billion to UK GDP.
Lack of access to basic opportunities is detrimental to women's social, economic and physical and psychological well being. A crucial element to reducing social exclusion is providing equitable accessibility (ease of reaching) to opportunities. A first step in this journey is to remove barriers to mobility (defined as the 'ease of moving'). THE ILO stated that transport remains a neglected area among gender specialists and transport specialists are still reluctant to take on gender issues. Until this is done, the prospects for many women who live in areas characterized by poor physical accessibility and inadequate transport will remain poor' .
The overall aim of the proposed network is to provide a forum for knowledge exchange, training and cooperative working and learning: understand, using empathic design methods, the mobility barriers faced by women in Malaysia and Pakistan,
2 to co-design culturally sensitive solutions, policies and strategies to address these problems
3 to consider the usefulness of EU sustainable urban mobility planning processes in increasing consultation and user engagement in the design of master plans
4 to raise awareness of the effects of inaccessible transport on women and sustainable cities and communities.

Working together on these 4 issues in an 18 month project will provide opportunities for the network:
1. to grow and link to other national and international organisations,
2. to develop an understanding of cultural differences with respect to mobility
3. to test its ability to work together and provide evidence of co-operative activity to draw on for future bid applications
4. to transfer knowledge and best practice
5. to acquire data for joint publications

Empathic design methods will be introduced to Pakistan and Malaysia as a means of evidencing the lived experience of women. These will provide a basis for increased cultural understanding, and help in empowerment and presentation of clear evidence to policy makers. Network activities will culminate in co-design workshops with users, operators and policy makers as a means of exploring 'design led approaches' to user engagement. These will be presented to transport operators, planners and policy makers, and used to inform course design.

Planned Impact

The network of researchers in UK, Malaysia and Pakistan will act as a catalyst for research on barriers to women's mobility. Network activities are designed to provide opportunities for;
1. increasing awareness of the effects of barriers to women's mobility in LMICs
2. applying design research methods to increase engagement of women in mobility planning and as service users
3. co-designing culturally sensitive and context specific solutions to perceived barriers to mobility with women and other stakeholders
4. development of information packs for local, national and international audiences
5. knowledge sharing and collaborative working

1. Women in LMICs. The network will directly engage with female transport users in culturally appropriate ways and present their stories to stakeholders and the wider community.Co-design activities will be used to empower women and design used to present their mobility needs in compelling ways. Barriers to women's mobility reduces access to opportunities and effects quality of everyday life . However it still does not feature, per se in GCRF challenges areas. The network outputs will begin to redress this.
2. Transport planners, providers and operators will benefit 1)through direct participation in co-design workshops, listening to stories and engaging empathic modelling 2) as recipients of information packs containing information to aid gender mainstreaming 3) broadening of empathic horizons 4) exposure to validated approach to sustainable urban mobility planning. The network will collate information and use this, together with culturally specific knowledge to produce policy notes, information packs and best practice guidelines for each country. These will be based around authentic stories in each country and co-designed solutions to perceived barriers. These will be used to not only provide concrete examples of step changes needed to reduce mobility barriers but to highlight the use of co-design in user engagement.
3. Wider academic community through access to social media websites, publications and training. Research communities in UK and EU will benefit by increased understanding of mobility and urban planning in LMICs and the use of co- and empathic design engagement in transport planning. Knowledge derived from the network will be highly highly relevant to current EU/international debates regarding inclusivity, implementation, gender mainstreaming, accessibility, mobility as a services (MaaS) and difficulties of user engagement.
4. Network members (and associated institutions) through training in design research methods (not widely used in LMICs for user engagement), knowledge sharing, joint publications and design outcomes enabling them to embed new methods in their practice.
5. Social capital of neighbourhood and community groups will be increased through workshops and other activities. It is hoped that new sustainable, low cost solutions will be developed which have traction with planners, operators and new market entrants.
An impact evaluation plan will be drawn up. Impact will be evaluated by organisations who have provided letters of support, participants, number of readers and quality of contributions , actionability and relevance of outputs for different beneficiary groups, uptake and investment in user engagement methods as a means of empowering women in decision making and as transport users.
The duration and scope of the network will be made transparent to all participants. Resources will be provided to maintain social media after the conclusion of the network and the outcomes will feed into HEI courses. The consolidation stage outputs will be used to challenge lack of gender mainstreaming, user engagement and consideration of women as transport users, with information packs evidencing the benefits of reducing barriers to women's mobility. The team will also look for funding streams to support future work such as Newton Funding.


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Description Gender transport poverty in LMICs is a wicked, and intractable problem. Saying this does not make a wicked problem less wicked. Women's mobility is bound up by cultural and social norms, religion and restrictions in LMICs which together with the climate and the lack of investment in transport effectively prevent women from taking an active part in society. where women are denied access to transport, they are also denied access to education, health car, employment, cultural and civic events. Wherre women do go out, they need to ask permission, and book taxis(careems), which are costly - so they are again discrimated against
We have held workshops, world cafes and focus groups in Pakistan and Kuala Lumpur and conducted first hand ethnographic research in both locations (the Coventry part of the work will be completed in April). We have found a scarcity of data about women, and women's employment in transport. Although women may be educated to degree level and beyond, without gender mainstreaming they are not employed at senior (or any) level in transport. without representation in the industry, women's voices are not heard, or not taken into account.
We have found that there is an appetite for change at grassroots level - for women to ride motorbikes, and drive taxis (in Lahore), initiatives to have women only carriages in Kuala Lumpur. However, such solutions remain piecemeal without a wider strategy. We have used systemic design research methods to shed light on the wicked problem of gender transport poverty (and have a paper accepted on this subject for journal publication). We believe that organizational change is needed across the transport sector before women's mobility needs can be addressed in a systematic manner, and are looking at ways in which this work and our network can be supported after the lifetime of the project.
Exploitation Route The award still has another 3 months to go, during which time we will run the final international workshop in Coventry with colleagues from Malaysia and Pakistan. During this time we will be searching for new funding opportunities and writing research papers. We have 2 book chapters and 1 research article to write.
Our work has been based around trying to understand the lived experience of women, with regard to the barriers to their mobility, To further this work and continue it after the project we are designing information packs (for policy makers) and a popup exhibition/awareness raising campaign which can be used by other groups - schools, NGOs, action groups, and women's groups. This will be downloadable for free on our website towards the end fo the project. All material will be piloted on Coventry on April 30th.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description Focus groups held in Malaysia to discuss gender transport poverty with stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Keynote presentations were made. round table, focussed discussions were held with groups to discuss gender related mobility issues in Malaysia with a view to heightening awareness and barriers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description World cafe held in Pakistan to discuss gender transport poverty with stakeholders in Pakistan 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a one day event held by Design Pak to which all the projector were invited along with representatives from the local community, included Careem owners, policy makers, women's groups. There was a small exhibition and a panel discussion aimed at raising awareness of geneder transport issues in Pakistan
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018