Women, transport and employment in Africa

Image: SenuScape /cc

Globally, research shows that women depend more on public transport than men, especially when they are part of the lower income strata. However, young women face barriers in accessing safe spaces in cities, which affects their access and use of transport (Venter et al. 2007, GTZ 2007, Doan 2010, Salon and Gulyani, Skelton and Gough 2013, FIA foundation 2016, UNWomen 2017, Porter et al. 2017). In addition, women in Africa face substantial discrimination in the transport sector not only as transport users but also as transport sector employees, affecting the range and quality of employment available to them (Porter 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014). These various forms of social and economic exclusion lock young women into cycles of skills deprivation, unemployment and poverty. Thus there is a need for transport-related research that aims to understand this gender dimension in the transport sector better in order to improve accessibility and safety, and to inform public transport planning and operations.

Transport has remained an understudied component of social and economic exclusion especially within the gendered transport and travel arena in Africa (Fernando and Porter 2002, Porter 2011, Uteng 2011, Turner 2015). In addition, there is little research into associated skills-building potential to better understand how to assist women to break through these barriers of discrimination. It is within this context that the Women, Transport and Employment project has been launched.

The project is a three-country (South Africa, Nigeria, and Tunisia) mixed-methods study seeking to better understand the experiences of young women in low income communities both as transport users and transport sector employees. One objective of the study is to help disadvantaged girls and young women improve their skills in engaging with Africa’s transport sector and thus expand their opportunities for accessing training and meaningful, paid work. Therefore, the study design incorporates an action research component that will result in the design and piloting of a skills-based intervention that aims to provide women with training and capacity building to develop their skills as users and employees in the transport sector.

The focus is on major city regions in each country, as urban centres continue to attract young people migrating into cities and seeking employment. In each region the research will take place in one peri-urban and one close rural location in order to allow for an in-depth understanding of women’s access to transport, commutes to work, transport opportunities and skills acquisition in these different location types. The research will probe the nature and scale of gender inequalities that shape the transport practices and behaviours of young women in each site. The study will explore the constraints and opportunities operating in each region and their links to the wider political economy context.

The research methodology is based on a co-production approach that involves academic researchers and research participants working together to draw out initial key questions and themes that will inform questionnaire design and further in-depth interviews. In each region six unemployed young women who are resident in the research locations will be recruited to work as peer researchers. Their work will include assisting the research team to identify key research questions to investigate in the field. They will continue to work with the academic team on an occasional basis through the fieldwork phase, and assist with the recruitment of interview and focus group participants within their respective communities.

This research is being conducted by researchers from the Universities of Cape Town (South Africa), Usmanu Danfodiyo (Sokoto, Nigeria), HOSN Consulting (Tunis) and Transaid in collaboration with Durham University (UK). Funds for the study have been provided by the UK Economic and Social Research Council through its Global Challenges Research Fund Skills and Educational Programme.

More information about the project can be found on https://transportandyouthemploymentinafrica.com

About the team:
Principal Investigator: Professor Gina Porter, Department of Anthropology, Durham University
Professor Emma Murphy, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University
Dr Claire Dungey, Department of Anthropology, Durham University
Ms Hanen Keskes, Durham University
Mr Sam Clark, Transaid, London

South Africa:
In-country lead researcher: Associate Professor Ariane de Lannoy, SALDRU, University of Cape Town
Ms Nwabisa Gunguluza, University of Cape Town

In-country lead researcher Dr Fatima Adamu, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto
Dr Plangsat Dayil, University of Jos

In-country lead researcher: Mr Hichem Mansour, HOSN Consulting
Ms Hanen Keskes [Tunis/Durham University]
Mr Hamza Zaghdoud