Mainstreaming gender issues into the rural transport sector: Seven research programmes underway in Asia and Africa


Gatnet: Collaborative problem-solving for a world-wide action agenda

Following a  discussion on GATNET  that took place during November-December 2015 — reference — around why gender has not been mainstreamed into the rural transport sector and why addressing gender issues in rural transport has not been transformative, changing the unequal relations between women and  men, UK AID has commissioned seven research programmes in Asia and Africa to explore these issues  further. The  countries in which the research is taking place are Nepal (in South Asia), Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone,Liberia, Uganda and Ghana (in Africa). (See or join GATNET (below) for further updates).


Jun Hada leads the WISE NEPAL team that is looking at Gender mainstreaming in rural transport projects in Nepal: case studies of transformative roles of women and disadvantaged groups (DAGs) at household and community levels. 

In Nepal, the Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (DoLIDAR) is responsible for rural roads. Its Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI) Policy for infrastructure projects is intended to be mainstreamed by the District Development Committees (DDCs), Village Development Committees (VDCs) and the Municipalities. Although Nepal has formulated gender-inclusive policies, challenges remain in the national and local implementation to achieve genuine gender transformations.

For many years, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) has been assisting DoLIDAR in the sub-sectors of rural roads, bridges and trail bridges.SDC supported road-building have ‘mainstreamed’ GESI approaches, and intended to ensure the participation of women and disadvantaged groups (DAGs) in decision-making. It has also intended to create a conducive working environment  for women, in terms of safety, insurance and child care. Women and DAGs have been targeted for employment with equal wages, they have been proportionally represented in the decision-making positions of users’ committees and they have been trained in construction-related activities.

Project reports and evaluations suggest these interventions have led to significant changes in the lives and livelihoods of women and DAGs living in the zone of influence of the roads. There have also been changes in the practices of local governments in the districts with more equitable resource allocation in favour of women and DAGs. This research will try to document actual changes in gender relations related to projects activities over the years. The research will focus on following key questions

  • What are the most significant changes in the lives of beneficiaries (in their own perceptions)?
  • How has ‘gender mainstreaming’ helped contribute to change women’s roles in the household?
  • Has ‘gender mainstreaming’ changed the way decisions are made in communities and districts?

The research will be carried out in Ramechhap and Okhaldhunga Districts where there are past and on-going rural road projects.  The research will  explore: the impact of gender mainstreaming in projects on gender relations at the family/household level, community/society level and transformative impacts beyond income and employment; the changes in lives/societies influenced by women’s engagement and/or employment; the factors that stimulate, or constrain, the achievement of a transformative impact and whether the gender-focused processes have been taken up by the local governments in their rural roads projects including planning, designing, resources allocation and implementation.

The second Nepali project from HELVETAS looks at Transforming gender relations in the trail bridge programme in Nepal: an analysis of policies and practices.  The team leader is Mona Sherpa.

Trails and trail bridges have been regarded as the lifeline of rural Nepal. With more than 6000 trail bridges in place, about 1.2 million people cross them every day, demonstrating their importance to rural women and men. Besides providing a safe and easy river crossing facilities, trail bridges are also supposed to impact in other aspects of lives of people, such as livelihoods, social transformation and gender relations.

This research will look into how the trail bridge programme, through various interventions in planning, implementing, daily operation and the maintenance of bridges, has been transforming gender relations in the communities. The research will look into policies, their actual implementation and the impacts they have had in changing the gender relations.  The policy framework in Nepal as related to infrastructure development and the rights of women and disadvantaged groups provides considerable scope for both participation and the enjoyment of benefits.


In Kenya the project is led by Samuel Orwa from TACITUS LTD. Kenya has supportive legislative and institutional frameworks for gender mainstreaming. They include the Constitution of Kenya (2010), the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015), the Integrated National Transport Sector Policy (2009), the Roads 2000 Strategy and Vision 2030. The institutional frameworks include the Department of Gender Affairs (DoGA) and the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC).  The aim of the research project in Kenya is to answer the key question: what is the evidence of gender mainstreaming efforts transforming the institutions that deliver and support rural transport infrastructure and services?

The research will collect evidence on whether  having had to deliver a gender mainstreaming agenda has (or has not) resulted in:

  • changes to the composition of staff of the rural transport institutions
  • changes in budget and expenditure allocations
  • changes in the way decisions are made in those institutions
  • what are the factors that stimulated or constrain such changes; are the changes positive or problematic? Are the changes sustainable?

The research is being carried out in Nairobi and in three counties: Murang’a, Machakos and Homa Bay. All three counties have different socio-economic, livelihood activities and ethnic groups that require relevant transport infrastructure and service needs for women and men.

The target institutions for the study include:

  • policy development and oversight institutions
  • implementation institutions
  • financing institutions
  • community level contractors, cross-cutting development institutions and transport service provider institutions.


The TANZANIAN  team is led by Amleset Tewodros and is assessing whether gender mainstreaming in rural transport has had a transformative effect on women facing multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion

Tanzania has high gender inequality, ranking 125th in the 2014 Gender Inequality Index. Gender inequality is widespread and is seen across all sectors from the household level to the job market and the limited representation of women in political positions, despite the 50/50 commitment made at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, the index indicates that women’s freedom of movement may be restricted on a day-to-day basis despite no legal restrictions on women’s access to public space. Additionally, negative cultural beliefs and practices disadvantage girls and women of all ages who are often less educated, experience early marriage and have no right to own and inherit property. According to the 2015 Global Age Watch Index, Tanzania ranks 91 out of 96 countries in access to incomes, health and security. Older women, especially those living alone, those with disabilities and widows, are often marginalised and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.

In 2003, Tanzania adopted a National Transport Policy and mainstreamed gender in rural transport. The Policy recognised rural women often faced long walking distances, negatively affecting their productivity. The policy also acknowledged that women are over-represented amongst the poor and face greater difficulties in escaping from poverty. The different rural transport initiatives (VTTP in 2000, LGTP I 2007 etc)  used a community-led approach and made a commitment to ensure women’s voices were heard and that they participated fully in decision-making  by adopting a broad and participative approach to the identification, monitoring and implementation of local transport infrastructure improvements.

The  research aims to specifically answer the following questions:

  • Did gender mainstreaming in rural transport programmes in Tanzania result in transformative changes for women?
  • Are women facing intersecting inequalities benefiting from gender mainstreaming programmes?
  • What are the transformative changes women with multidimensional inequalities (specifically older women, women with disabilities and widows) would like to see through gender mainstreaming programmes?
  • What are the constraints and factors facilitating transformative changes for women facing multiple levels of exclusion in rural transport programmes such as VTTP and LGTP.


In ETHIOPIA, the research team is from Metameta research and is led by Dr Cecilia Borgia. They are  investigating how engagement of female headed households (FHH) and women spouses (WS) is played out in the public works planning and implementation of roads within the Productive Safety Net Programme(PNSP) at national, regional, district and village levels.

The PSNP was initiated by the Government of Ethiopia in 2004 to enable chronically food-insecure rural households to increase their resilience to shocks,  create assets, and become food self-sufficient. Within the PSNP, members of targeted households participate in the development of community rural infrastructure,  including low volume road development and rehabilitation. PSPN reaches more than 7 million people with an annual budget of USD 600 million.Gender is mainstreamed in the program by ensuring a large number of women among PSNP recipients and by providing special arrangements to enable their participation, including in decision-making.

The research will look at both positive and negative impacts of rural road development on FHH and WS (e.g. asset creation, access to markets, employment, and social facilities). It will also look at whether the way gender has been interpreted and mainstreamed within the PSNP has resulted in institutional changes within the implementing organisations. Lastly the research will study methods to more systematically reflect women’s priorities in road development within the PSNP – for instance by engaging women (FHH and WS) both in the design of the roads and the implementation of the works, taken into account practical and cultural constraints.  Moreover, the research aims at developing practical tools (designs, consultation processes, quality of work and practical work implementation arrangements) to do so – taking into account the overall parameters of implementing the PSNP program (seasonality, cost sharing, quality of supervision, budget constraints).

Sierra Leone and Libereria

In SIERRA LEONE & LIBERIA  the research moves away from rural  transport infrastructure and focuses on accessing opportunities and obstacles for gender mainstreaming in the motorcycle taxi sector. While the burgeoning rural transport revolution based on the motorbike taxi has been a spontaneous and market driven development, the sector remains highly gender imbalanced. The overwhelming majority of motorcycle taxi riders are males, serving what is perhaps a majority female clientele. But there are some female bike-riders as well, often much favoured by passengers, given their reputation of being less reckless riders, less likely to be under the influence of drugs/alcohol and with no risk of sexual harassment (particularly relevant for late night or longer journeys to more isolated areas). Nevertheless, despite the demand, female riders are still a tiny minority and limited to peri-urban areas.

This research will

  1. a) establish the main barriers and challenges women experience in becoming motorbike riders in semi-urban and rural settings and how these can be overcome (training, credit, awareness, policy change, etc.) and
  2. b) assess whether a pioneering community-driven rural  track  construction  project  –  designed  to  further facilitate rural motorbike transportation and with explicit gender mainstreaming in design, planning, and implementation – will empower women and make them more likely to take up the motorbike taxi profession  and/or opt for household/village roles or livelihood activities normally not associated with females.

This will be a two country case study. RQ (a) will be answered via a detailed study of female motorbike taxi riders and passengers in the rural areas around the provincial towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni in, Sierra Leone. All three towns serve as local hubs – connected via motorbike taxis – for the surrounding rural areas, providing accessing to market, health and educational facilities for rural dwellers. This will help us to better understand the rural, peri-rural and urban- rural nexus of  motorbike transportation and the opportunities and challenges for female riders within this. Furthermore, the Makeni study offers the opportunity to assess the impact of a large scale agro-industry project (the 10,000 hectares Addax Bioenergy sugarcane plantation) on rural transformation and gender roles in the motorbike transport sector.

RQ (b) will be answered via a detailed study of a community driven track construction projects in Nimba county, northern Liberia, funded by GIZ  and implemented by Global Communities. This project aims through extensive use of local resources (labour and materials)  to  facilitate  rural  transformation  and  allow  for  livelihood  diversification. Moreover, via the active and deliberate involvement of women in all aspects of the track planning, design, implementation and maintenance, it aims to empower women to overcome traditional/patriarchal – but constraining – barriers.

International Forum for Rural Transport and Development (IFRTD)

The last research in the portfolio is a multi-country study by IFRTD looking at the scaling up of gender mainstreaming in rural transport through the analysis of policies, practices, impacts and monitoring processes.    Led by Nite Tanzarn, this research project recognises that there still exists substantial gaps in knowledge, policy and practice in respect of sustainably mainstreaming gender equality interventions in rural transport and access programmes and that gender mainstreaming has not been as effective in achieving transformative impacts as intended.

The International Forum for Rural Transport and Development (IFRTD) in conjunction with its network members  in Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya aim to deliver a multi-country case study based on two primary countries, Uganda and Ghana where detailed research will be undertaken. and Kenya and Tanzania which will  provide supplementary desk-based case studies.

The research is based on the premise that the opportunities to access, use and benefit from rural transport systems differ between men and women.  The research outputs will contribute to knowledge and practice by seeking to answer two main questions that are persistent challenges to gender mainstreaming in the rural transport sector.

These are:

  1. What tools, indicators and targets have been used across different rural transport projects/programmes. What have been their success and weaknesses? How can these be improved? What cross-country lessons on the use of the tools can be learnt and be disseminated?
  2. What are the factors that can lead to successful scaling up of gender mainstreaming, ie, from donor-supported projects to national programmes and policies?

The project will employ qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, with document reviews as well as key informant interviews at the national levels. The research is based on a selected combination of past and ongoing projects. Completed projects will enable the team to audit the sustainability of the gender components  and distil the lessons that can be learnt, while a review of ongoing programmes is an opportunity to provide feedback to the projects and examine ways of improving their tools, indicators and targets for gender mainstreaming.

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Centrral African repulic women buidling road

Gatnet Mission Statement

Addressing the problems of women, particularly Southern women and girls facing the everyday reality of gender inequality in the transport sector. The program deals with specific problems in specific places in Africa, Asia and Latin America, both cities and in very poor outlying rural areas where safe and fair access is an enormous problem of day-to-day life, often falling especially hard on women and young girls. The Gatnet program makes use of a number of tools, references  and websites to support communication and networking within a gradually growing number of concerned women and men which extends to more than one hundred countries today on all continents.

Gatnet 2.0 Hot links

– – – > Welcoming Note
– – – > 2.0 POWER SEARCH
– – – > FAQs
– – – > Gatnet 2.0 Open Library
– – – > Scholarly Articles
– – – > Gatnet in the News
– – – > Videotec
– – – > Gatnet 2.0 Member Map
– – – > The 143 faces of Gatnet 2.0
– – – > FULL GENDER PARITY (Essay)

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About the discussion leader:

Priyanthi FernandoPriyanthi Fernando is an International Development Consultant · · Colombo, Sri Lanka — with experience of working on social development and poverty issues and communication. She has worked for years to advance the cause and role of women in the struggle for sustainable transportation, sustainable lives, and the environment in the poorest parts of the planet. She can be reached via

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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