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The reality of integrating gender into transport policies and projects

Donor agencies and national governments have increasingly expressed their commitment to promoting gender equality in all areas of their work. This has included efforts to integrate gender into the work of the transport sector. However, a substantial gap between rhetoric and practice exists. Robust auditing of gendered practice in transport is necessary if policies are to be transformed into reality.

Research conducted by IC Net
Limited, the Transport Research Laboratory and the International Forum for
Rural Transport and Development explored progress made on integrating gender
into donor support of the transport sector. It undertook in-depth qualitative
and documentary research on 10 transport policies, programmes and projects
supported by donors, including those of the World Bank in nine developing
countries. They were examined in the context of national gender policies,
transport policies and the institutions responsible for their implementation.

The research found that in Uganda, Senegal and South Africa, despite strong commitments in national gender and other
policy frameworks, there was little meaningful action on gender in the
transport sector:

  • Gender was often
    included as a condition in donors’ approval of projects. However, gender issues
    were often addressed by establishing a specific component within wider
    projects, rather than adopting a gendered approach to the design of the project
    as a whole.

  • Once a project or
    programme had been approved, the specific gender components were often ignored
    in the efforts to complete other, more ‘important’ elements of programmes.

  • In some projects,
    technical capacity did not exist to implement specific components and in others,
    a lack of national commitment meant gender components were neglected.

  • In Uganda, Lesotho and Bangladesh, gender was successfully integrated in
    labour-based road maintenance projects. Here, local and community involvement
    in priority-setting ensured that gender equality in road maintenance teams and
    in the promotion of small-scale women contactors was successfully implemented.

One strategy to improve
performance is the introduction of auditing and auditable targets in the
transport sector. Evidence from Lao showed that even when gender considerations
are integrated into policy, there were no mechanisms to ensure that they become
practice. Auditing would ensure a clear process of identifying the nature of
the transport sector in gendered terms – how many men and women work in the
sector, who plans for the sector, what the different needs of men and women
are, and how they are (or can be) met. Transport’s role in such areas as
maternal mortality, water management and household survival strategies could
also be considered. Auditing allows for the introduction of enforceable performance
indicators and measures that would move gender from the planning stages through
to implementation. Following from this, the research advocates that:

  • Robust audit
    tools and processes must be developed to assess the progress of gender integration
    into the transport sector.

  • Auditing should
    be undertaken at all levels of implementation and the allocation of resources
    should take this into consideration.

  • Methods to review, revise and improve the performance and correct the
    failures of existing transport policies and projects to integrate gender need
    to be developed.

  • Institutional
    capacity, attitudes and monitoring indicators can be improved by strengthening and
    formalising links between national gender policies and the transportation

the progress being made in mainstreaming gender equality into the work of donor
agencies and national governments is vital.  Research has shown that in the transport
sector, despite significant rhetoric, little has actually changed. Gender
auditing must become central to work in this sector and immediate efforts are
required to include gendered best practice into existing, often long-term
policies and projects.