This page is concerned solely with promoting gender equality on road work sites. It only touches on one facet of the many relationships between roads, mobility, gender, and in family wellbeing in general. For example, poor access to health facilities, whether due to poor roads or lack of health centres, is a major cause of high infant and maternal mortality.
Donor agencies and national governments are integrating measures to promote gender equality within traditionally male-dominated areas such as transport and infrastructure. . Drawing on experiences across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, it is clear that measures promoting greater gender equality in labour-based road maintenance and construction can provide substantial social benefits to rural households and communities.
The greater involvement of women ensures a wider distribution of benefits than when only men are involved. Increasing their involvement in small-scale contracting also adds to their income-generating options. However, there are constraints on their involvement in labour-based works. These include’ negative perceptions by men, both within the household and the community as well as contracting procedures that may inadvertently exclude women. Male prejudice must be reduced and provisions that ensure that contractors comply with measures to ensure gender equality must be enforced..
Drawing from the increasing numbers of examples of good practice available, there are a number of proven measures to promote gender equality in labour-based roadworks. These include:
1) Focus on community participation of both men and women early in the planning stage to promote understanding of the unequal gender impact of poor infrastructure and of the social benefits of improving it.
2) Require mandatory recruitment procedures in minor works contracts, preceded by sensitisation activities targeting both men ( to encourage them to allow female family members to participate) and women.(to inform them of employment opportunities)
3) Require contractors to recruit a new workforce at regular intervals (such as every 5km) to spread work opportunities and ensure that women are not discouraged by excessive travel distances. The design of local programmes should also take into account women’s considerable daily workload.
4) Ensure equal pay for equal work and require contractors to submit weekly time sheets, broken out by gender.
5) Stimulate the development of female-owned construction enterprises by defining more flexible criteria for selection of enterprises to be trained as small and medium rehabilitation contractors, thus removing the present bias towards firms led by technically qualified males.
Promoting women’s participation in contracting will nevertheless be difficult. Contractors are, reasonably enough, more interested in profits than gender equity. Incentives to encourage contractors to employ women must be designed and applied.
In conclusion, it is clear that there is plenty of scope for donor agencies and national governments to integrate gender equality within transport sector policies, programmes and projects. Labour-based road rehabilitation and maintenance projects, in particular, yield immediate benefits at the local level by providing jobs accessible to men and women.
The reader interested to read more on relationships between gender and rural transport and the impact of mobility on social development in general can click on the logo below.
This page was contributed by Jeff Turner, Programme Manager of AFCAP