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The e-Newsletter of the Gender Network

August 2012 | Vol. 6, No. 2

Gender mainstreaming and social inclusion in the transport sector: Where next for ADB?
by Jeff Turner Over the last two decades, we have seen a substantial effort and commitment from donor agencies and national governments to promote gender equality in all areas of their work. This has resulted in efforts to integrate gender into the work of the transport sector. It has been found, however, that there still remain frequent gaps between rhetoric and practice. There is a need for robust auditing of gendered practice in transport to enable policy aspirations to be transformed into reality. There is also a need to be able to turn around failures in current attempts to integrate gender into existing transport policies by 'retrofitting' them with gendered best practice. Research I conducted with others, over a decade ago, on initial attempts to mainstream gender into the World Banks operational transport projects1, found that: Despite strong commitments to gender equality in countries national policies and constitutions, there was little meaningful translation of these commitments to action on gender in the transport sector. Gender was often seen as an external issue, included as a condition in donors' approval of projects; and 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. During the implementation of a project, the specific gender components were sometimes 'lost' or neglected in the efforts to complete more 'important' elements of programs on time. In some projects, targets changed over time, in others, technical capacity did not exist to implement specific components, and in others still, a lack of national 'ownership' meant gender components were neglected. Most success was found in those projects or programs that dealt with labor-based road maintenance initiatives. Here, evidence was found of successful implementation, including gender equality in road maintenance teams and in the promotion of small-scale women contractors.

Conversely, a unique workshop that brought together the Transport and Gender Equity Communities of Practice (CoP) at ADB, which I facilitated, highlighted a number of challenges facing ADB in mainstreaming gender into the transport sector. These included the: major challenge of encouraging greater participation from developing member countries government agencies and ministries in a gender mainstreaming or socially inclusive

This project evaluated operational projects across 9 countries (Bangladesh, China, Laos, Vietnam, South Africa, Lesotho, Uganda, Senegal, Peru). The synthesis and case studies from this research project, called Integrating Gender into World Bank financed Transport can be found at

transport discussion, which often polarizes into perceptions of such a discussion being led or imposed by ADB; need for a greater focus to be placed on gender and social inclusion in national transport policy dialogue, and not limited to a discussion at the project design stage; need to use the existing national gender machinery (where it exists); significant focus on the experience of labor quotas as the gender mainstreaming element of road projects and the need to rebalance this with an appreciation of gender-balanced aspects of access needs, especially for other sub-sectors such as urban transport; and lack of capacity within executing agencies and lead on gender and social inclusion elements within projects as a significant challenge; where, the workshop asked, was the pipeline of project staff at the national level to implement the integration of gender and social inclusion?

It is clear, from these two instances separated by nearly a decade, that there is a need for gender auditing to become common practice in the transport sector. Consideration must be given to how to rescue existing and ongoing projects from their failure to address gender issues, including: Robust gender audit tools and processes must be developed to assess the progress of gender integration into the transport sector. Resources need to be available to enable gender auditing to take place. Gender auditing should be undertaken at all levels of implementation. Methods to review, revise, and improve the performance of ('retrofit') existing transport policies and projects to integrate gender need developing. Capacity needs developing within the transport sector, especially within DMCs to facilitate effective mainstreaming gender into sector operations.

It is vital to assess the progress being made in mainstreaming gender equality into the work of donor agencies and national governments. Gender auditing must become central to work in the transport sector and immediate efforts are required to 'retrofit' gendered best practice into existing, often long-term transport policies and projects.

*** Jeff Turner is an independent consultant who specializes in gender and transport. He is also a visiting lecturer at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, UK. He can be contacted at

The views expressed in this paper are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this paper do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology.