Addressing road safety from a gender perspective at the Feminominal Forum in Minsk

Active Travel and Healthy Streets, Belarus, Road Safety Governance and Capacity Building

When gender is raised in relation to road safety, it is usually to point out that men are most at risk. World Health Organisation data suggests that globally 73% of all road fatalities are young males aged under 25, who are 3 times more likely to die in a road crash than young females.[1]

However, turning this perspective on its head, if roads, living spaces and transport choices were designed by and to meet the needs of women, there would be far fewer casualties altogether.

Last week, EASST’s Corrine Vibert and EASST partner Raphael Musaev, President of the Belarusian Auto-Moto Touring Club (BKA) raised these issues in Minsk as part of the Feminominal Forum*.

Addressing road safety from a gender perspective

The Forum, attended by over 150 women and men from across all sectors in Belarus, aimed to talk about the challenges that women face in life: in public service, and international and public organisations around the world; as well as discuss to access of women to managerial positions. Raphael took the opportunity to talk about how he is empowering women through offering leadership positions in his businesses – particularly in the transport sector where women are often underrepresented. While Corrine discussed issues of road safety in relation to women’s needs, calling, in particular, for fair and equal representation of women in decision-making situations as well as greater awareness of addressing road safety from a gender-perspective.

The first step in this regard is gathering robust data on road safety from a gender perspective and communicating the results effectively in order to make everyone (men and women) aware of the problems and what benefits the solutions can bring! EASST is currently working on this through a number of its projects, as well as working to embed gender-responsive evaluation into all of its project work. In Tajikistan, our survey of non-motorised road users in the centre of Dushanbe, supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), found interesting results when the data gathered was disaggregated by gender. For example, it was discovered that women account for around 45% of pedestrians but only 22% car occupants, and only 5% of drivers were women. In addition, as passengers, women were more likely to be in the back seat, where in 60% of cases seat-belts were not accessible due to being covered by car seat covers.

Through analysing this level of detail and highlighting this sort of information, we can help in devising informed, evidence-based solutions that will have a real impact for all road users and challenge the assumption that motor vehicles should be the priority.

Public spaces need to be accessible for all

During her visit to Minsk, Corrine also visited the Belarusian Association of Assistance to Children and Young People with Disabilities as part of EASST’s support to the BKA’s project ‘Lessons of Kindness’ which is dedicated to creating barrier-free environment for disabled children and young people in the Republic of Belarus through more inclusive road safety education. This work is a continuation of the BKA’s work on disability, mobility and road risk which they surveyed 1000 people with disabilities and their carers in order to identify the particular needs and problems disabled people in Belarus face as drivers, pedestrians and public transport users.

Again, from a gender perspective, according to Carers Worldwide, globally 84% of carers are female.[2] Our EASST partners in Moldova, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan have now all completed surveys of people with disabilities and their carers to find out how road safety impacts their lives. In Moldova, 40% of people with disabilities and carers found it very difficult to cross the road. In Belarus 59% have difficulty with the most basic journeys. In Kyrgyzstan 93% of wheelchair users never use public transport due to difficulties with access. Broken pavements and the lack of priority given to pedestrians was their number one complaint. In every country, the life chances of people with disabilities and their carers have been restricted due to unsafe roads and poor transport choices.

If public transport and public spaces were pedestrian-friendly, female friendly, disabled friendly and child friendly (rather than focused on enabling the faster movement of motorised vehicles – which is most often the case) then they would be safer, and there would be better opportunities for tourism and local businesses, there would be better public health as well as benefits to local communities and employment.

* The Feminominal Forum was organised by the Open Europe Scholarship Scheme and the European Scholarship Scheme for Young Belarusians, and supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the British Embassy in Minsk, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, SHB Law Offices, Lex Forum, TUT.BY, the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group), Berkeley Research Group, and the Belarusian Auto-Moto Touring Club. The Forum was funded by the European Union.