The urban population of Africa, the fastest urbanizing continent, has increased from 19% to 39% in the past 50 years, and the number of urban dwellers is projected to reach 770 million by 2030. However, while rapid urbanization has increased mobility and created a subsequent growth in demand for public transport in cities, this has not been met by the provision of adequate and sustainable infrastructure and services.

The majority of low-income residents and the urban poor still lack access to adequate transport services and rely on non-motorized and public transport, which is often informal and characterized by poor service delivery. Lack of access to transport services limits access to opportunities that aren’t in the proximity of residential areas, such as education, healthcare, and employment.

The urban public transport sector not only faces the challenge of poor service provision, but also of gender inequality. Research shows that, in the existing urban transport systems, there are significant differences in the travel patterns of and modes of transport used by women and men, and that these differences are associated with their roles and responsibilities in society. Moreover, the differences in travel patterns are characterized by unequal access to transport facilities and services. Women are generally underrepresented in the sector, in both its operation and decision-making. Women’s mobility needs and patterns are rarely integrated into transport infrastructure design and services and female users are often victims of harassment and assault.

As cities rapidly expand, meeting the transport needs of their growing populations while paying attention to gender-differentiated mobility patterns is a prerequisite to achieving sustainability, livability and inclusivity. Gender mainstreaming in urban public transport is therefore a critical issue, but one which is under-researched in East Africa.

This research explores gender issues in public transport in East Africa, focusing in particular on women’s inclusion in both public transport systems and transport policy decision-making processes and using case studies from three cities: Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam.