Women and Transport at a glance in the Northern Cape: ! Kheis Story.

Women and Transport at a glance in the Northern Cape: ! Kheis Story.
Obakeng Jacobs.
Transport Economist. Pan Afrikanist.
Dashiki Projects.
07 August 2017

In this auspicious moment in the calendar one has no choice but to locate the intricacies women and transport at local government level. I must admit I am conflicted writing this as a man because of my privileged position in patriarchal society. I believe this article aims to bring a much needed conversation to the fore in the context of built environment, transport service design and generally access of vulnerable transport users in rural areas.  The exploitative nature of patriarchy should never be denied and the recent spike of women cries out for concerted effort to deal with unfortunate vulnerability and fragility of women. It is met before one delves into the depth of ideas on this piece emphasis that we should consistently celebrate, elevate, love and protect women from any kind of harm. Improved access and mobility is directly linked to a better quality of lives, thus women transport become important in the preceding discussion.

Women transport is topical subject that has not found a space in the planning and policy outlook of the Northern Cape.  Although the MEC of Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison Ms. Pauline Williams has alluded to the stark reality of women empowerment at institutional level and the need to redress the gender imbalances at the high echelons of the department. This article aims to take a different direction from the MEC by reflecting on women transport challenges and suggest interventions to improve their accessibility and mobility.

Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison is required by piece of laws to do transport planning and formulate policies for the province. Oversee implementation and monitor all plans and policies to ensure that at the end of the day people’s lives are improved. To be specific, transport planning concern itself with the integrated, effective, efficient accessibility and mobility of people and goods at an affordable cost with less environmental impact.

At a glance ! Kheis Local Municipality is named after the Khoi-san, the first inhabitants of this area. It is named ! Kheis as an honour to the people who occupied this area and fearlessly fought against foreign European and Afrikaner settlers. The name simply refers to “a place to live in” which reflects the wealth of cultural diversity, hospitality and humanity of the people. It has its administration based in Groblershoop, a fairly small town that has huge responsibility to over three communities. It is well endowed with perennial, and large rivers which offer numerous recreational and academic expeditions. The famous Orange River valleys accounts for most agricultural activities that create work opportunities for most of the people based in the municipality.

 The area is poised to become a pioneer of green technology and innovation because of the high solar radiation. It will be catalyst to the creation to numerous work opportunities and contribute toward to national renewable energy targets. Tourism is sector that has potential to double the socio-economic development initiatives of the municipality and be a gateway to other sectors such as eco-tourism.

According to Statssa (2011) there are significant female headed households and half of the population is women in the municipality, which accounts for 33 % and 49, 5 % respectively. The high number of women headed-households demand planning and policy instruments to integrate gender needs. It is well documented that transport planning doesn’t adequately include gender analysis to gauge the different needs of men and women in regard of accessibility. Thus one see that planning and policy outlook of the municipality express the accessibility and mobility needs of men neglecting the interests of women. It should be contextualized within the prescripts of absence or in the backdrop of weak institutional capacity, to plan for transport in the area.

The para-transit service design is ineffective and inefficient because it provide service twice in a day which is morning and in the afternoon. Para-transit service design reflects a bias to men transport needs on the premise of traditional gender based division of labour responsibilities in the household and community. Where men go to work in the morning and come back in the afternoon, subsequently services are designed according to those travel patterns. It fails to acknowledge the complex women accessibility and mobility needs that are often concentrated within a specific geographical location. Women make multiple trips because of their inherent roles at home and community which often are short, dispersed and frequent. Unlike men trips that involves some form of remuneration, women’s trips are for community and reproductive purposes.

It is well documented that women depend on public transport for access and mobility because of the inherent distorted spatial patterns of rural areas. It demands long distance travel to essential services and retail facilities. Moreover women are captive users of the public transport exacerbated by lack of access to private car and few license ownership among them. Lack of mobility options for women makes them vulnerable to other hazards such as violence and abuse from operators and commuters. The infrastructure design of paratransit vehicles and amenities doesn’t take note of special needs of women particularly health and the fact that in most cases they are accompanied by children or elderly people.  For instance the taxi recapitalization programme should have integrated all these salient women issues to ensure that they are catered for in the design of new vehicles and service provision.
Non-motorized transport is the most used mode transport by women in the municipality because of inefficient public transport system. Women resort to NMT, particularly walking because of low income and lack of mobility options in the community. Walk all the way to their respective destinations, within their respective geographical locations although there are exceptions where women from Gariep walk more than 8 kms to the nearest main road (N10).  To hitch-hike to neighboring towns or go to Grootdrink. The secondary road from Gariep to the N10 is a sandy road cleared for purposes of motorized transport which inevitably pose serious safety and security issues to women who walk daily on it. This is at the back of drop of unavailable essential services such as police station, internet cafĂ©, high schools, police stations and hospitals.

The municipal road network is in poor condition, predominantly unpaved and gravel which makes walking a challenge because one is in constant conflict with other modes. The high women walking patterns in the area demand urgent interventions to improve accessibility and mobility of women. Inevitably it will have a positive impact on their lives, households and community.
Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison has committed to fulfill its obligation to do integrated transport plans for those municipalities that do not have resources. It is inspiring to note the commitment of MEC Pauline Williams in regard of empowerment of at institutional level. The ambitious drive by department’s licensing unit to funnel women operators in the men dominated taxi industry. Women’s month, should be a time where we all take stock of how far we have progressed in regard of women empowerment, protection and integration. Thus as custodian of the provincial transport the onus is on the department to empower women in ! Kheis Local Municipality as follows although not exhaustive:

1 Establish transport unit in ! Kheis Local Municipality. That will be able to carry out transport planning and policy per NLTA Act 05 of 2009.
2.    Develop Integrated Transport Plan in liaison with stakeholders.
3.    Dedicate a chapter to gender mainstreaming in the municipal plans and policies.
4.    Integrate gender analysis as a tool in the transport plans and policies.
5.    Develop a provincial non-motorized transport with a clear focus on rural areas.
6.    Find resources for the development of sidewalks, footpaths, crossings and sheds in the municipality.
7.    Road safety campaigns across the municipality, with a strong emphasis on women safety and security.


Transport planning and policy outlook is patriarchal in philosophy and nature. The onus is on everyone who is involved in the transport sector to imagine transport as a developmental and empowerment tool in the rural areas. Furthermore as a pioneer in changing the conventional thinking that fails to include vulnerable users or groups like women in planning and policy. Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison is in better position to advance these ideals of gender analysis and appropriately elevate our women to their rightful place through improved accessibility and mobility.


Happy women’s month!

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