On May 22, 2018, more than 150 people gathered in Leipzig to discuss how gender affects mobility and its impacts on women’s choices. This event was organised under the auspices of the Transport and Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI). TUMI, a network for sustainable urban mobility, was launched at Habitat III in Quito in 2016 by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and partners.
Women Mobilise Women was conceived of as a pre-event leading up to the International Transport Forum that has been held in Leipzig since 2012. It was organised by GIZ to enhance the voice of women leaders from cities across the world on mobility and safety. The slogan of the day was, “When women plan transport, it is planned for all.”
The event saw several wonderful speeches by women leaders from across the world. Julie Ann Gentner, Minister for Women and Associate Minister for Transport, New Zealand, talked about her personal journey and how she has advocated for greater focus on issues of women’s mobility in New Zealand. She said the choice is between “lively streets or car slums”. Gisela Méndez, former Secretary of Mobility, Colima, Mexico, shared about how she faced personal threats to herself and family when she took on the transport mafia in the country and had to eventually resign. She showed tremendous personal courage as many other women have. Mobility is a key factor to enable women’s education and employment was the input from Dr. Tania of the German federal ministry. Tripti Gurha from the Indian railways talked about her own life as a woman in a male-dominated industry and how in recent years the Indian railways have taken steps to improve women’s participation in the railway workforce. Angela Anzola De Toro, Secretary of Women and Gender Equality, Bogota, said that their research shows that women and men move in very different ways and the transport system needs to respond to this.
Esenam Nyador, the first woman taxi driver in Ghana, shared her experience of how difficult it was to drive a taxi, and how there was so much resistance from the male taxi drivers. Many of them told her to hire a man to drive the taxi. Her personal story of struggle and success was very inspiring. Kimberly Toure, who is the only woman member of the Association of Liberian Construction Contractors, also spoke about being a pioneer in a male-dominated field and her struggle.
Kalpana Viswanath of Safetipin shared her journey of social entrepreneurship and running a technology and data company with no technology background. She stressed on how a social scientist running a technology company provides a significant change in how technology is viewed and how the social dimensions take precedence.
The day ended with a moving speech by Sofia Salek de Braun, Traffic Safety ambassador for PTV Group, where she recounted the story of how she lost her five-year old son in a road accident due to rash driving. That accident was also responsible for the death of her parents-in-law and she pleaded for slowing down traffic as well as returning the streets to people.
The entire day was full of intense conversations and presentations and the sharing of personal journeys by women from different countries. The commonalities of women’s concerns around the streets, safety and opportunities echoed in all the talks and all the participants went home with a renewed sense of purpose.
By Dr Kalpana Viswanath, Co-Founder & CEO of Project Societal Partner Safetipin