Women Transporting into Employment: Challenges and Opportunities in the Jordanian Transportation Sector
A new paper on creating and implementing gender-inclusive policies within the transportation sector from WUSC’s women’s economic empowerment initiative in Jordan.
By: Emilie MacIsaac, Program Officer, WUSC
As Jordanians make their way to work, the voice of famous singer Fairuz can be heard ringing through the opening store fronts and rolled-down car windows. Long, intertwined lines of cars and taxis remain motionless in the streets, as drivers and their passengers envisage another late arrival at the office. For many workers, this rush hour traffic is the most cumbersome part of their commute. But for Jordanian women, it is only one of the many barriers they face in commuting to and from work.
When it comes to accessing safe and affordable transportation in Jordan, women are disproportionately affected. Public transportation is characterized by high costs, safety concerns, an unreliability of bus services, and lengthy commute times. But private transportation is less likely to benefit women. As domestic responsibilities tend to fall on women’s shoulders, the priority for owning a car to get to work usually goes to men.
Women are also more likely to earn smaller wages than men, making public transportation options relatively more expensive for women, especially if they have to make extra stops to drop their young children off at daycare. Financial concerns aside, public transportation is perceived by many Jordanians as an unsuitable space for women due to the possibility of inappropriate conduct by drivers, collectors, and passengers. In many areas, women are not expected to be alone in a public space after nightfall, which can be difficult to avoid after a long commute and with irregular bus schedules.
Jordanian women face a dilemma: they are being increasingly encouraged to enter the labour market to contribute to their family income, but getting to and from work remains a significant challenge. The current state of transportation services represents a major obstacle to women’s economic participation in the country. Women in Jordan are among the most educated in the region, with high school enrolment and literacy rates. However, the country has one of the lowest female economic participation rate in the region, with only 14% of women currently working or looking for work.
One of the main goals of our work in Jordan is to improve women’s access to safe and affordable transportation. Our ‘Transporting Women into Employment’ report draws upon research in Irbid, Salt, and East Amman conducted in 2017 and 2018. It presents our key findings and policy recommendations on an issue that is very rarely presented from a gender perspective. This consideration is instrumental in promoting gender equality in the labour market and all other areas of society.
Our report suggests a variety of actions that key governmental players in the Jordanian transportation sector can take to respond to these barriers. Some of these suggestions include:
- making gender equality a policy pillar within all future national transportation strategies;
- supporting more research on gender-related issues;
- gathering more gender-disaggregated data on travel patterns and choices;
- creating safety standards that include mandatory trainings for bus drivers, collectors and taxi drivers on preventing and addressing cases of discrimination and sexual harassment in their vehicles;
- adapting bus routes to focus on safety and social inclusion, and;
- establishing committees dedicated to consulting community members on their diverse experiences and adjusting policy-making accordingly.
The integration of such recommendations by governmental authorities into national strategies and plans is bound to translate into more efficient and inclusive transportation systems for all.
This research has been useful to our programming activities as well. Our work has supported the national Vocational Training Corporation (VTC) in Jordan to ensure that all students receive transportation allowances to alleviate the financial burden of getting to and from their classes. In the future, we plan to coordinate with existing taxi service applications to explore safe and affordable carpooling options for women living far from main bus routes. In collaboration with various private and public sector actors, we will continue to support national and community efforts to improve women’s access to transportation to ensure their freedom of movement and capacity to participate in the economic and social life of their communities.
The ‘Women Transporting into Employment’ report was made possible with the financial support of USAID’s Takamol Project in Jordan. WUSC’s work toward greater economic empowerment for women in Jordan is funded by Global Affairs Canada and managed in partnership with Canadian Leaders in International Consulting (CLIC).