Shafiq R Khan


GENDER IN RURAL TRANSPORT For Agricultural livelihoods

Rural transport contributes to rural livelihoods by increasing the mobility of people and goods and facilitating access to resources that serve basic needs as well as labor and commodity markets, services (health, education, and financial), and information. Rural transport infrastructure often opens the way for the development of water, energy, and other infrastructure. Rural transport includes motorized and nonmotorized rural transport services for passengers and freight (such as public and private trucks, buses, trains, and boats as well as bicycles, animals, and other intermediate means of transport) and rural transport infrastructure (rural roads, bridges, tracks, trails, paths, and waterways). The rapid growth of urban centers and periurban sprawl in developing countries has blurred the boundaries of rural and urban and increased nonfarm income opportunities for rural men and women. The globalization of food production, distribution, and retailing based on integrated global value chains and the adoption of high-value agricultural export production (for example, flowers, tropical fruit, and vegetables) in many developing countries, facilitated by transport linking paths and roads to airports and railroads, have increased options for women and men in labor-intensive crop production and processing (Barrientos, Kabeer, and Hossain 2004; Dolan and Sorby 2003).

Conventional rural transport planning has focused on road networks and the long-distance transport of produce, neglecting transport solutions for the many rural women and men who lack access to motorized transport and travel by foot on feeder roads, foot bridges, and tracks. Upgrading a rural road can increase the flow of motorized traffic without directly benefiting local rural people and often creates safety risks for them. There are conflicting local and through-traffic needs and impacts for national and state highways that pass through rural villages. Local people want safety and access; pass-through travelers want rapid traffic flow (Tiwari 2001). A road investment alone does not guarantee that adequate transport services will meet the needs of local women and men, particularly in areas with low population density (Plessis-Fraissard 2007; World Bank n.d.).

Although recognition is growing that transport can make significant contributions to achieving the MDGs and extensive research has been conducted on gender differentials in access, mobility, and patterns of rural transport use, as well as many successful transport pilots and activities that address women’s needs and priorities, the integration of gender and other social dimensions has not become an established part of doing business in the rural transport sector. Many decision makers still assume that transport is “gender neutral,” that is, it benefits men and women equally.

Rural transport policy rarely incorporates national gender policies or social and gender assessments. Conversely, country gender assessments and strategies seldom address infrastructure issues. A rural livelihoods approach to transport planning goes beyond conventional cost-benefit analysis to examine environmental and social impacts as well as gender disparities.

Transport is approached in the wider context of individual, household, and community development, as a means of enhancing rural economic growth and reducing poverty and responding to women’s and men’s needs, not an end in itself (Fouracre 2001; Starkey and others 2003).


Gender inequality is now recognized as a serious obstacle to poverty reduction and economic growth, particularly in rural areas where women play significant roles in agriculture

and food security (World Bank 2001). In most instances rural women have more limited access to land, labor, financial, and product markets (agricultural inputs and outputs). Women have more limited opportunities than their men counterparts to secure employment outside of agriculture, to increase nonfarm income, and to access education, training, and transportation services that will facilitate their livelihood (both domestic and income earning). They have fewer assets with which to pursue their livelihood strategies and have more vulnerabilities. This affects women’s mobility, access, and transportation needs and results in gender differences in the impact of transport interventions (Graeco 2002; Peters 2002).

Gender inequality in transport burdens

Transport takes up a large amount of time and physical effort in rural areas, and women bear most of that burden Rural men and women play multiple roles (productive, reproductive, and community management), but men generally are able to focus on a single productive role and play their other roles sequentially. Because rural women need to play these roles simultaneously and balance competing claims on limited time, women’s labor time and flexibility are much more constrained and inelastic than men’s. In addition to their prominence in agriculture and the informal sector, women and girls bear nearly all of the “invisible” domestic tasks of processing food crops, providing firewood and water, and caring for the elderly and the sick. Women’s heavy domestic burden limits the time they can spend one conomic activities and restricts them to activities compatible with domestic responsibilities. Thus, rural women face trade-offs in time allocation between different productive activities, between market and household tasks, and between meeting short-term economic and household needs and long-term investment in capacity and human capital. Women’s time poverty and income poverty often reinforce each other with negative impacts. As long as the household economy is invisible, rural transport policy makers and planners are unlikely to attempt to address the trade-offs among different productive and domestic tasks (Blackden 2003; Blackden and Wodon 2006; Quisumbing 2003; World Bank n.d.).

For example, a UNDP time allocation study in Benin found that women worked 67.2 hours per week and men worked 50 hours. Men spent 24 hours on production, and women spent 17.5. Women spent 9.6 hours gathering wood and water, whereas men spent only 1.4 hour. Women spent 13.3 hours processing agricultural products and preparing meals; men spent 1 hour (Blackden 2003). In Zimbabwe, in an average family of six persons, 90 percent of the transport burden is headloaded, primarily by women. Women and girls collect and carry 95 percent of the water for household use and 85 to 90 percent of the fuelwood (Tichagwa 2000). In areas where water or firewood is scarce, this time and effort can be substantially more. In Tanzania Masaai women walk up to 30 kilometers to the next water hole during the dry season (World Bank n.d.). Headloading and backloading transport activity has direct costs in human energy and time as well as health and opportunity costs. Headloading adds an estimated 20 percent to women’s travel time. Women’s heavy transport burden reduces their agricultural productivity, diminishes their ability to grow and market cash crops, and limits their access to farm and nonfarm employment as well as local community decision making. Headloading also causes back and neck injuries (Peters 2002).

Gender differentials in access to transport

In many developing countries men’s control of household cash and intermediate means of transport (IMTs), such as draft animals, bicycles, and carts, and social and cultural constraints on women’s mobility limit women’s access to transport opportunities that could reduce their transport burdens (Edmonds 1998). Men’s control also creates differential access to markets, inputs, training, extension services, grain mills, and financial and health services for women and men. A multidonor report, “Can Africa Claim the 21st Century?” concluded that in Tanzania reducing time burdens of women could increase household cash incomes for smallholder coffee and banana growers by 10 percent, labor productivity by 15 percent, and capital productivity by 44 percent; in Kenya, giving women farmers the same level of agricultural inputs and education as men could increase yields obtained by women by more than 20 percent (World Bank 2000).

Rural transport services are often infrequent and expensive. Schedules and frequency of service are based on peak periods of travel to and from work rather than the multiple travel tasks of women who often “trip-chain,” combining various domestic and caretaking responsibilities with wageearning trips that occur throughout the day when services are limited (Peters 2002). The high cost of providing transport in areas with low population density often translates into high tariffs unless government subsidies are provided to service operators and users. Many rural men and most rural women lack the resources to pay these tariffs or to purchase intermediate means of transport. Thus, if the distance is too great to headload crops to market, farmers must sell to middlemen, who take a large share of the profit. For women and men who can afford rural transport services, only limited amounts of produce can be accommodated, making the transport costs high in relation to profits from sales (Plessis-Fraissard 2007).

Limited access to transport has serious human costs as well. Every minute around the world a woman dies in childbirth, and most of these deaths are preventable. Transportation delay to emergency obstetrical care because of lack of roads, transport services, and money to pay for transport is one of three types of delays that can lead to medical complications, including obstetric fistula,2 which can result in maternal and newborn deaths (Babinard and Roberts 2006; Riverson and others 2005). These losses reduce labor and production capacity and threaten family welfare.

Unequal access to rural transport-related employment and income

Employment in rural transport that is dominated by men includes construction labor; provision of public or private transport services, such as driving and maintaining buses, trucks, and cars; and work in public sector institutions that plan for and manage transport services. Barriers to rural women’s access to transport jobs and enterprises include information networks that bypass women, perceptions of “appropriate” work for women, differential pay rates for women and men, and gender inequalities in access to schooling that leave women without the necessary qualifications (Lallement 2007; SIDA 1997). Although labor-based construction has provided an entry point for women, even projects with gender inclusion provisions face serious challenges in institutionalizing these approaches (Tanzarn and others 2007). Redundancy resulting from privatization of transport services is also gender differentiated; women are almost universally the first to lose jobs.

Inadequate safety and security measures

Safety and security issues are seldom adequately addressed in rural transport projects even though increased road connectivity also brings increased injuries and deaths, most often among the poorest. Pedestrians with headloads, nonmotorized transport, and motorized vehicles move at very different paces on the same road, which often has little or no shoulder.

The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians and people riding on nonmotorized vehicles and motorcycles. People living in rural areas are more likely to be killed or seriously injured if they are involved in road accidents because motor vehicles tend to travel faster there and trauma care is extremely limited (World Health Organization 2004). Men are involved in more fatal accidents than women, and women are involved in more nonfatal accidents. Less motorized countries account for 86 percent of global fatalities (TRL and DFID 2000). The economic impact of road accident fatalities and injuries represents an estimated annual $53 billion in lost production in developing countries. In India road accident costs account for an estimated 2 percent of gross domestic product (Tiwari 2001).

Rural transport services are often dangerous. Drivers speed and overload vehicles and seldom give passengers enough time to safely board or exit. Women are often harassed, and their goods are poorly handled (Plessis- Fraissard 2007). Limited transport service availability often means that rural women going to markets or to work in agroprocessing must wait for buses or trucks before dawn and return after dusk, placing them at risk for assault (Dolan and Sorby 2003). In addition, the trafficking of girls and women increases with greater road connectivity, especially near major roads and in cross-border corridors. Risk is greatest where women have low status and there is widespread poverty, such as in rural Nepal (Latif 2005).

Transport, mobility, and gender inequality and the spread of HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases follow transport and construction workers on road and other transport networks into rural areas, causing serious economic impacts on human capital and agricultural productivity. Mobility and long absences from home make transport workers particularly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, whether they work on land, sea, or air routes. The evidence overall of risk-taking behavior by transport workers and of their relatively higher HIV and AIDS prevalence rate compared to general populations is overwhelming (International Transport Workers Federation 2007). In regions where HIV and AIDS are entrenched, more women are now infected than men, and in countries where epidemics are just beginning, new infections among women outnumber those among men. Unequal gender relationships force millions of women, already biologically much more vulnerable to infection than men, to submit to demands for unprotected sex and prevent them from learning about the casual sexual encounters of their partners. Gender differences in risk factors, vulnerability, and the impact of HIV and AIDS have implications for prevention, care, treatment, and coping mechanisms. HIV and AIDS have been particularly devastating in sub-Saharan Africa, where women play a major role in agriculture and food security and bear the burden of care for HIV positive family members and AIDS orphans (Cook 2003; ITF 2007; Lema and others 2003; Mutemba and Blackden 2000).

The disproportionate effect of resettlement and displacement by transport infrastructure on women

Women, children, and the elderly are most negatively affected by loss of land or access to land because of displacement or resettlement for transport and other infrastructure. Payment of resettlement compensation to those with legal title is intrinsically gender biased because land and property are usually registered in men’s names. Thus, women are usually excluded from receiving compensation. Negative impacts of resettlement and displacement can include the increasing economic dependence of women on men due to the loss of their income from common property resources, the increasing vulnerability of widows and deserted women when displaced, and the added burden for women and girls due to changes in resource use patterns, particularly the loss of familiar sources of fuelwood and water. In addition, the breakdown of community networks destroys an important source of help for women in hard times (Asian Development Bank 2004; Cernea 2000).


The discussion addresses the key benefits of gender mainstreaming into rural transport projects and programs.

Increased agricultural production, economic growth, and economic empowerment

Construction and rehabilitation of feeder roads, tracks, and bridges and more affordable access to road and water transport services and intermediate means of transport increase the productivity and incomes of men and in particular women farmers who rely on them more heavily, by reducing time and opportunity costs and expanding their access to markets and inputs. For example, in Peru the rehabilitation of nonmotorized tracks in isolated communities reduced poverty from 83 percent to 74 percent, and 77 percent of the women traveled more frequently. Routine road maintenance created 6,000 jobs, 24 percent of which were held by women (World Bank 2007b). Boats carry consumer products and medicines to

remote communities and serve as shops for their owners, who are often women. Floating markets are widespread in the Mekong Delta, where rural women and men also depend on water transport to take fertilizer or seed to their fields and carry the crops for consumption and sale (IFRTD 2003).

Increased infrastructure cost effectiveness, accountability, and sustainability

Participatory, gender-inclusive assessment of transport needs and transport planning identifies local needs of women and men and identifies problems and resources that can affect the outcomes of a project, thus increasing the efficiency and outcome benefits. It builds a local sense of local ownership of the road and commitment to repair and maintenance, which increases sustainability. It also reduces conflicts and tensions and thus prevents construction delays that increase costs. This process increases local-level planning capacity, accountability, and transparency in use of local resources and more gender-equitable distribution of benefits. Also, it reduces the risks of adverse effects on intended beneficiaries. Involvement of local women in rural transport planning often provides more pragmatic inputs on road selection and design that more directly reflect local economic and safety needs. For example, separate consultations with women in the Yemen Rural Access project resulted in safety features such as speed signs and speed bumps near schools. The women working on road maintenance in the Second Peru Rural Roads project improved the quality of road work because men drank less and worked more regularly with women on the team. Women were responsible for ensuring the quality of roadwork and handling payments because they were viewed as incorruptible. The economic rate of return for the project was over 30 percent (Caballero 2007; World Bank 2007b).

Increased human capital

Access to transport to emergency obstetrical care can help reduce maternal and newborn mortality and reduce the loss of productive capacity. Access to IMTs such as donkeys for carrying water and wood can reduce domestic transport time burdens and free up time for girls to attend school and for women to participate in literacy and farming and business skills training. Road access and dedicated transport services for girls can also facilitate safe access to school for girls and boys and increase school attendance. Research in Nepal, a landlocked country with severe accessibility problems, showed that road access affects girls’ school enrollment more than boys’. When the school is a four-hour walk from the road, boys’ enrollment is 56 percent and girls’ is 31 percent. When the school is a 30-minute walk from the road, enrollment increases to 67 percent for boys and 51 percent for girls (Shyam 2007). In Morocco improved, allweather roads increased access to butane gas for heating and cooking. This reduced women’s and girls’ domestic burden and tripled girls’ primary school enrollment (Levy 2004). Vietnam, a country with great dependence on water transport, uses boats to carry children to and from school (IFRTD 2003).

Reduced risks and vulnerability

Improved rural road safety—particularly for pedestrians, nonmotorized transport, and school areas—through safety education and public awareness raising, traffic management (for example, safety bumps, signs, separate paths for nonmotorized traffic), and enforcement can reduce unnecessary disabilities, injuries, and deaths that otherwise diminish rural human capacity and productivity. Information, education, and mobilization programs linked to transport projects can raise awareness and change behavior to reduce transmission of HIV and AIDS, combat sex trafficking in rural areas where it is prevalent, and reduce harassment and gender violence on routes to school, transport to wage labor, or on paths around villages.

Equitable relocation and resettlement mitigation strategies can reconstruct the basis for rural livelihoods for women and their children through compensation transfers directly to women’s bank accounts, access to communal land, livelihood training and employment opportunities, health and education facilities and services, and food security programs (Asian Development Bank 2003; Cernea 2000).


The sections discuss the key policy and implementation issues in gender integration into transport projects and programs.

Gender-sensitive rural transport policies

Transport policies should be informed by social and gender analysis to address rural women’s and men’s needs and constraints, including women’s domestic labor burden. The consultation process for transport strategy development needs to engage a wide range of stakeholders, including women. The rural transport strategy needs to spell out the key institutional arrangements for the three principal areas of rural accessibility and mobility in gender-equitable terms: (1) infrastructure, (2) rural transport service, and (3) location of physical facilities such as markets, schools, and clinics (Essakali 2005; Malmberg-Calvo 1998; Starkey and others 2003).

Balancing economic efficiency, engineering standards, and socioeconomic transport needs

On the one hand, community-driven development projects are often very effective in social and gender inclusion and responding to local women’s and men’s needs but less effective in meeting engineering standards or cost effectiveness and may fail to link to the larger transport grid. This can result in roads that do not link to markets and that deteriorate quickly (Ishihara 2007). On the other hand, large, centrally managed rural road projects are usually technically sound and cost effective but seldom address gender and other social issues. This can result in negative impacts on local people and in poor maintenance due to lack of local sense of ownership, and in some instances conflict can delay road construction. To achieve a balance between transport social “software” and construction “hardware,” transport program designers and managers need the capacity to formulate and analyze questions about the socioeconomic and gender aspects of transport requirements and the implications of transport interventions. Integrating social scientists with gender and transport expertise into rural transport project teams and transport agencies is one way to achieve this. The most effective integration of gender in transport projects has included concerted efforts to build social and gender analysis capacity and awareness in transport agencies. The Feeder Road Prioritization Approach, developed in Ghana, combines attention to women’s and men’s transport needs with technical rigor and cost effectiveness in a participatory process that builds local ownership (Hine, Ellis, and Done 2002).

Transport governance issues

Weak governance reduces the efficiency, sustainability, and equitable distribution of benefits of rural transport interventions, particularly for women who generally have little voice in community decision making. One common issue is exclusive, ineffective local governments that are fragmented, lack planning and coordination, and have little or no transparency and accountability. Another common issue is a lack of clarity on who (national, local, or private entity) owns and is responsible for maintenance of roads and tracks. Resolution of these issues within a gender-sensitive framework requires aggressive interventions to improve management, accountability, and equity. Rural roads need to be planned and managed as a pivotal network in the entire transport chain, a network that relates to all other modes or transport subsectors and in which women are prime movers (Graeco 2002; Rankin 1999; Starkey and others 2003). Financing also needs to be gender sensitive and transparent, whether this includes locally raised revenues, centralto- local fiscal transfers, road maintenance funds, or donor, community, government, and road fund financing (Rankin 1999). Road funds are among the more popular forms for filling road sector financing gaps by pooling fuel taxes, tolls, and other resources under various institutional arrangements and oversight rules. The establishment of road funds has increased road maintenance funding and its stability throughout Africa. It is very important to ensure representation of women’s interests on the boards that govern the road funds.

Gender-responsive monitoring and evaluation systems

Creating a gender-responsive monitoring and evaluation system requires appropriate baseline data, relevant sexdisaggregated indicators, and sustainable mechanisms for data management and evaluation. It is important to measure gender differences in social and economic impacts to determine the extent to which transport is contributing to the MDGs, equitable poverty reduction, and women’s empowerment (Maramba and Bamberger 2001). Monitoring and evaluation systems are essential for guiding planning and midterm adjustments, tracking the distributional effects, establishing accountability, and ensuring commitment to achieving gender-specific priorities.


Recognizing significant regional and country variation in gender and rural transport issues is important, as well as the institutional frameworks in which rural transport operates. Differences must also be examined among rural women based on livelihood strategies, age, ethnic and religious affiliations, disabilities, and other factors. No one-size-fits-all solution may be found. Good practices must be adapted to respond to different and changing contexts based on social analysis that takes gender into account. Very few projects have integrated gender throughout the project. Many use innovative approaches to one or two aspects of a project, such as consultation or monitoring and evaluation.

Raising gender awareness for rural transport decision makers

Mainstreaming gender in rural transport policy, strategy, and the design and delivery of infrastructure and services requires a high level of sustained political and managerial commitment, which can be facilitated through awareness raising, using evidence of positive outcomes to foster highlevel champions for gender issues in transport. The World Bank conducted regional and country-specific training for transport sector staff, including engineers, and as a result, the engineers became advocates for social dimensions of transport planning.4 The Gender and Rural Transport Initiative (GRTI) in Africa conducted numerous training activities, such as the training for principal secretaries in Malawi (Thematic note 1).

Accessibility planning

Optimal accessibility is crucial to reducing rural genderbased exclusion (Graeco 2002). Access is a key element in providing opportunities for economic and social development and thus an entry point for local-level planning (Edmonds 1998).

Thematic Note 1. Malawi Forum: High-Level Officials Address Gender Imbalances in Rural Travel and Transport

The principal secretaries in Malawi have a significant impact on policy formation. On April 8, 1999, they signed the Makokola Declaration on Gender, which supports the need to integrate gender issues into all areas of development. Because transport was not explicitly mentioned, GRTI conducted a workshop to increase awareness of the gender and rural transport issues and gain the secretaries’ support for needed changes. The principal secretaries developed a gender action plan for Rural Travel and Transport (RTT) with the aim to (1) ensure that the transport policy adequately addresses gender issues in the transport sector and RTT subsector, (2) build the capacity for gender analysis of gender focal points in all ministries, (3) involve gender focal points in decision making, (4) formulate an effective coordinating committee among ministries to ensure progress in gender mainstreaming, and (5) Develop a project to facilitate rural women’s access to IMTs through, among other things, the provision of credit facilities.(Source: Gender and Rural Transport Initiative 2002.)

The Rural Access Index for roads measures the percentage of the rural population that lives within 2 kilometers of an all-season road.

Typically this is equivalent to a walk of 20 to 24 minutes. The World Bank Transport Sector Board has established the Rural Access Index as one of the key diagnostic measures for the sector. It is also part of the results measurement system launched for the 81 countries that receive International Development Association assistance. In the 48 countries for which the index has been calculated, only 56 percent of the population had access to an all-season road in 2006, leaving an estimated 1 billion people without access. The Rural Access Index provides a measure of the need for improved accessibility to achieve the MDGs. For example, a high correlation has been found between low access and high maternal mortality ratios as well as low school enrollment, particularly for girls (Roberts, Shyam, and Rastogi 2006).

Integrated rural accessibility planning (IRAP) is a tool developed by transport planners in the International Labour Organization for district-level integrated planning of facilities (water sources, schools, clinics, hospitals, markets, shops, woodlots, and government offices) in conjunction with roads, tracks, and other transport links. IRAP is based on mapping the location of households, facilities, and transport links, and women and men in local communities are encouraged to participate in the mapping exercise. IRAP has been successfully adopted in a range of countries in Africa and Asia (Donnges 2003). Efforts to incorporate gender issues in IRAP include analysis of the social and gender aspects of accessibility and travel patterns, origin and destination studies using sex-disaggregated data, integration of gender issues and indicators into data-collection manuals, women’s representation among key informants and in community-level planning, inclusion of women’s nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in decision makers’ pools, sex disaggregation of data, and use of gender indicators. A geographic-information-system-based IRAP map of settlements and facilities in a district can be a powerful tool for planning. A similar approach has been adopted by the Ministry of Public Works in Lesotho (See Thematic Note 1.1).

Gender-sensitive intermediate means of transport

IMTs can increase women’s mobility, independence, productivity, entrepreneurship, and empowerment and reduce domestic burdens. For example, in Tamil Nadu, bicycles introduced in a literacy program in the 1990s have increased women’s mobility, independence, and empowerment in a sustainable way. Large numbers of girls bike to school daily (Rao 2002). Bicycles with carrier baskets reduce travel time to fields and markets and increase the amount of produce or other goods that women farmers and entrepreneurs can carry. One effective way of enhancing women’s access to IMTs has been the provision of credit to women for IMT purchases. Another has been to encourage joint business ventures by women using IMTs. It is also important to work closely with women’s organizations to avoid sociocultural barriers to women’s access and use of IMTs and to involve community leaders (men and women) and get their support of women’s use of IMTs. It is important to ensure that IMTs are designed for women’s size and strength. Facilitating local production of IMTs has produced the most sustainable use in sub-Saharan Africa. Training rural women how to maintain and repair IMTs can provide entrepreneurship opportunities for women. It is also important to coordinate IMT initiatives with road design to ensure safety. IMT projects designed to benefit the entire family help ensure that women’s participation does not create domestic conflict (Edmonds 1998; Peters2002; Rankin 1999; Starkey 2001).

Thematic Note 1.1, Lesotho: Mapping Mobility and Access in Rural Areas

A pilot project focused on the potential of using a geographic information system (GIS) and participatory digital mapping as tools to analyze differential impacts of existing and proposed infrastructure and services on access and mobility of men and women in two remote river valleys in Lesotho. Participatory mobility and access mapping was integrated into the GIS using a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. Mobility and access maps to emergency transport, health centers, schools, grinding mills, and other services were generated for men, women, children, and the elderly in different villages. Mapping and interviews revealed significant gender and locality differences in mobility patterns with implications for differential impacts of transport investments. For example, women’s lack of access to IMTs results in fewer opportunities than men have to access health services in the region. Elderly women in particular are adversely affected by poor transport to access their pension payments in the district capital. The study also revealed a fragmentation of services that increases the number of trips required to access them. Source:Walker and others 2005.

Multisectoral approaches

A multisectoral approach to rural transport for rural livelihoods can address key access issues and contribute to achievement of the MDGs.

Multisectoral strategies: The World Bank Africa Travel and Transport Project concluded that providing water was an important way of addressing transport needs. Africa transport programs in several countries are engaged in the preparation of integrated rural development plans that include the provision of basic services. Similarly, Economic and Sector Work on “Rural Infrastructure in Peru” recommends adopting a territorial perspective that links rural economies to surrounding towns and avoids separate sectoral interventions and provides infrastructure services with stronger links to local realities and participation (World Bank 2006).

Labor-saving technology: Nontransport interventions sometimes provide more cost-effective solutions to reducing transport burdens than transport options. Nearby access to grain mills, wells, pumps, and wood lots and the use of alternative fuels and fuel-efficient stoves can significantly reduce domestic transport burdens (Edmonds 1998; Starkey 2001). A study of time saved by use of a new water supply closer to the household found savings of 120 minutes for each household per day in Chad, 17–86 in Kenya, 60 in Lesotho, 106 in Mozambique, and 100 in Zaire. In Zambia transport efficiency more than doubled when wells were used. However, in a number of projects, the failure to involve women in planning for the source and location of new water supplies has resulted in limited or even negative impacts (Malmberg-Calvo 1994).

Fuel-efficient wood-burning stoves can also reduce transport burden. Assuming that firewood consumption and the distance to collect firewood are equal to that of the average household in the Makete, Tanzania, the time spent on firewood collection would be reduced by 73 to 145 hours per year (1.4 to 2.8 hours per week) through the use of an improved wood-burning stove. The corresponding reduction in energy would be 6 to 12.2 tonne-kilometers each year. In Asia improved stoves also reduce cooking time by 20 to 30 percent. The estimated total average annual time saving is 250 hours (4.7 hours per week) (Malmberg-Calvo 1994).

Rural markets: Increasing the density of rural markets reduces transport time and cost and increases market access, particularly for women, given their domestic burden and limited resources. Efficient, affordable transport services and access to IMTs can also lower the time and cost required to get to markets and reduce postharvest loss (Starkey and others 2003). The Bangladesh Second Rural Roads and Markets Project combines these benefits with women’s empowerment outcomes (Thematic Note 1.2).

Thematic Note 1.2 Bangladesh: Second Rural Roads and Markets Project

The Bangladesh Second Rural Roads and Market Project (1996–2003) provided women the opportunity to access labor, product, and financial markets for their own economic empowerment, where previously women had to remain within their households without any income. A social and gender assessment revealed a demand for mechanisms to provide women access to labor and product markets, equal wages, participation, and decision making. In response, the project reserved 30 percent of the road construction jobs, 30 percent of the market management committee positions, 30 percent of the shops, and 100 percent of the tree plantation and maintenance work for women. The project also facilitated the formation of women’s contracting societies, traders’ associations, self-help groups with savings and revolving loan funds, and microenterprises for road rehabilitation. Partnerships were established with local government institutions for scaling up and strengthening the activities. Gender was also mainstreamed in the government agency to ensure sustainability after the completion of the project and to scale up the approach in other sectors, such as water management, urban development, and flood protection. There was a 50 percent increase in women’s employment and equal wages. Girls’ and boys’ enrollment in schools has increased dramatically as well. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, U.K. Department for International Development and German Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit have scaled up this approach to cover the entire country. Sources: Ahmad 2007; Pulley, Lateef, and Begum 2003.

Transport employment and enterprises: Inclusive employment policies in labor-based construction, repair and maintenance, and other transport employment with fair wages can increase economic and social empowerment, particularly for women. Targets and contract requirements with specific clauses in bidding documents for construction companies addressing equal opportunities for women combined with accountability through monitoring and evaluation are generally needed to ensure that women are hired and are paid equal wages. For example, contractors for the World Bank Mozambique Rural Roads and Bridges project are required to hire 100 percent local labor, 25 percent of which must be women. They are also required to provide HIV and AIDS awareness raising, testing, and treatment for men and women construction workers and communities near the roads. Grants and access to reasonable credit may be needed to enable poor women and men to establish transportrelated enterprises. For example, rural road rehabilitation and maintenance projects in Bangladesh, Mozambique, and Peru set quotas for women’s employment. In Peru it was necessary to modify the criteria for participation in roadwork, to accept women’s agricultural experience as relevant for the road tasks. The projects in Bangladesh and Peru also provided road-rehabilitation skills training. In Peru women’s participation in road work increased from 3.5 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2006 (Ahmad2007; Caballero 2007). These projects enabled illiterate women to become entrepreneurs, establish businesses, and earn income for the first time.

Emergency medical transport: Motorcycle ambulances have been operating in several African countries since 1998 to reduce delay in access to emergency care. The largest number of these is in eastern South Africa with a dozen units each covering a 50-kilometer radius. (Babinard and Roberts 2006). Ethiopia’s transport agency is planning innovative pilots, such as the introduction of emergency access cards, to enable the rapid transport of women in obstructed labor to the nearest capable health facility. Work with NGOs, the Red Cross, and technical schools will introduce IMTs to help transport emergency patients. Communities will receive tools for labor-based construction activities, including culvert and bridge construction and maintenance, to help ensure year-round access for emergency transport. These transport activities will complement health and social activities (Clarke 2007; Riverson and others 2005). In Vietnam boats serve as water ambulances (IFRTD 2003).

Information and communication technology for transport:

The rapid expansion of mobile telephones in developing countries can facilitate road improvement schemes and efficient use of transport services. ICT can enable pooling of resources among a wider set of communities in joint operation of a vehicle or vehicles and enables multiuse of public transport facilities (Graeco 2002; Starkey and others 2003). It also provides a means of coordinating access to emergency obstetrical care, accessing information on market prices, and conducting business. A project in Sierra Leone provided radios to summon vehicles to take women to hospitals. Another project in Uganda provided VHF radios and walkie-talkies to health posts, ambulances, medical officer vehicles, traditional birth attendants, and midwives to improve the referral system (Babinard and Roberts 2006).

HIV and AIDS prevention: Contract clauses on HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment for construction contracts were proposed by World Bank engineers in the Africa region as a practical approach to address the increased incidence of HIV and AIDS where roads were constructed. These contract requirements are now applied in the general health and safety conditions in standard bidding documents of major works contracts (more than $10 million) under World Bank lending projects for transport. The Asian Development Bank has similar requirements. The Western Africa HIV and AIDS project for the Abidjan- Lagos transport corridor aims to increase access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, support, and care services for underserved vulnerable groups (truck drivers, women traders, and sex workers). The project distributes information about HIV and AIDs as well as condoms for men and women, trains health officers, and promotes free movement of people and goods by reducing cumbersome bordercrossing procedures. The project informs women traders of their rights and the documentation required for crossing borders to avoid harassment at border checkpoints. It also trains women sex workers about HIV and AIDS prevention; provides free condoms; and gives financial grants to help them find alternative employment. The project also helps strengthen women’s organizations’ capacity-raising awareness of the rights and needs of people living with HIV and AIDS (World Bank 2007a).


The following guidelines provide crucial actions needed to increase development effectiveness and sustainability of rural transport infrastructure and services by taking into account the different constraints, opportunities, and needs of women and men and engaging them in the entire development process. Monitoring and evaluation of investment outcomes and impacts using sex-disaggregated beneficiary indicators and gender indicators of progress toward gender equality are also essential.

Policy dialogue:

Increase awareness of government officials and communities that rural transport policies and projects are not gender neutral and specific interventions are needed toensure that women benefit.

Ensure that rural transport policy and strategy are owned by the beneficiaries through participatory planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation that includes women as well as men.

Inform rural transport policies, strategies, projects, and project adjustments with social and gender analysis. It is essential to understand and address gender differences in transport needs, constraints, and potential impacts.

Ensure that adequate human and financial resources are allocated to addressing gender and other social dimensions of rural transport at institutional, community, andproject levels.


Embed transport-knowledgeable social or gender staff in the implementing agency with terms of reference that include gender integration. The gender sensitivity of the implementing agency is a critical factor in achieving positive outcomes.

Develop gender action plans as roadmaps for integrating gender in transport projects. Developing a gender action plan with stakeholder participation ensures community and institutional support and accountability for the implementation of the activities.

Use gender-inclusive mechanisms. Participatory approaches do not automatically include women. Mechanisms are needed to increase women’s participation, such as inclusive consultations with women by women, quotas for road construction and road committees, outreach and mobilization, socially responsible contract clauses, formation of women producers and processors groups, and training for women to level the playing field with men in transport work.

Work with local women’s organizations, NGOs, and networks. NGOs with strong institutional capacity and a government willing to partner with NGOs can mobilize local support, increase women’s participation and decision making, and provide training. Not all NGOs have the human, organizational, or financial capacity to provide the necessary assistance.

Provide awareness raising and technical assistance on gender and other social dimensions of rural transport at all levels.

Use gender-sensitive results-based monitoring and evaluation to guide rural transport planning and investment, as well as supervision of project implementation and impact evaluation. Gendered measures of impact need to be integrated into specific and routine monitoring processes, such as passenger and household surveys on transport issues. All routine measures related to beneficiaries should be disaggregated by sex and, where appropriate, age and other social characteristics. Where routine measures are not established or sex disaggregated, these need to be developed to assist in building the systems and capacity needed for routine application.


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