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Study: A Gender Assessment of Mumbai's Public Transport

During my time at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, I worked on a World Bank project to assess women's needs in Mumbai's public transport system. We worked closely with low-income women who used public transport: we held focus groups in slums, sat in the women's carriages on trains and listened to their stories, administered 200+ surveys and analyzed their responses. We found that women's needs extended beyond just safety, to convenience, comfort, and affordability. Things like having enough women's bathrooms, or bus conductors speaking to them courteously mattered as much as good lighting at stations and having female commandos patrolling trains. Empowerment is as much about reinforcing positives as it is about reducing negatives.

Photo of Mahima Sukhdev
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Here are the 6 main recommendations we eventually presented to Mumbai's transport authorities:
  • Off-peak Ladies Daily Pass: Given women’s travel patterns (walking is the most preferred mode of transport, more bus trips than train trips, more off-peak travel than men’s), we suggest that BEST consider an off-peak ladies only version of their 24 hour unlimited daily pass 
  • Women-only Bus Doors: Highlighted as the most uncomfortable/ unsafe step of bus journeys, boarding and alighting buses can be made more women-friendly by separating doorways for men and women 
  • Increased and Improved Women’s Toilets: The poor provision of women’s toilets should be addressed not only to provide this basic facility (and human right) but to signal to women that Mumbai entities place equal value on their men and women customers. Initiatives such as public-private partnerships, advertising and outsourced toilet management have proven successful in the provision of toilets in some stations and public areas of Mumbai 
  • Gender-training for Bus Conductors: Women spoke in great numbers and detail on discourteous bus conductors who harass women and further, condone their harassment by men passengers. We suggest gender-training and sensitization for these bus conductors, and have highlighted a case study (Delhi Transport Corporation and Jagori, a women's NGO) that might provide further ideas
  • Women conductors and drivers (especially bus-conductors): Women want to travel with women bus conductors and drivers and many would consider applying for these jobs as well. Already in place in Mumbai (train drivers only), Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, we encourage a scaling up of the initiative not only to improve the gender balance of BEST’s and Indian Railways’ employees profile but to signal their support for women’s empowerment through these powerful symbols
  • More women commandos: Given the positive response to this scheme that was only launched this year, we suggest a thorough assessment of the performance of this initiative that can be used to both refine and scale up the deployment of women commandos in train stations and on trains across the city

You can read the full report here:


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Photo of Meena Kadri

Thanks so much for sharing these valuable insights, Mahima. Tip: to activate links in your post, hit the Update Entry button up there on the right, then follow the instructions here:  

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