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Public TransportationLast month, leaders of Mali and Senegal signed a $2.75 billion deal with the China Railway Construction Corp to provide a 745-mile public transportation railway that will link the nations’ capital cities after its construction over the next four years.

Over 20 railway stations in Mali will be renovated, with upgrades made to over 400 miles of rail lines. This railway project will potentially bring economic development and poverty reduction to areas of West Africa, according to Reuters.

This is not the first time the Chinese have invested in railways in Africa — in 2014, Chinese Prime Minister Li Legian and the Kenyan government agreed to the construction of a new railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi for $3.8 billion, according to BBC.

That same year, the Chinese signed a $12 billion with Nigeria to construct a railway along the West African coast, Reuters reported. When completed, this project will have brought in about 200,000 local jobs while connecting otherwise untapped markets. The World Bank reports that transport infrastructure allows people to access jobs, health services and education and assists companies in maintaining market supply and demand with presumably lower costs.

In 2013, the Dakar Diamniadio Toll Highway was inaugurated in Senegal, becoming the first toll road of its kind in Africa, according to the World Bank. This highway would­­ cut travel times from downtown Dakar and Diamniadio from 90 to 30 minutes, greatly reducing congestion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGMCVHudC6U
Despite the economic growth and increased employment that public transportation can bring to those living in poverty, some challenges still result from their creation.

For instance, public transportation adds another expense to a family budget, cutting the poor’s disposable income as a result, according to the World Bank.

Urban air pollution and safety are other challenges that public transport can bring — for example, how more cars leads to more gas emissions, or how 90 percent of deaths on the road are accounted for by lower to middle-class countries, despite owning just half of the world’s total motor vehicles, reported the World Bank.

These challenges can be met through critical planning as urbanization increases in the developing world, creating more mid-sized cities.

The World Bank wrote, “City planners have an opportunity to design sustainable and inclusive transport systems from the start, leapfrogging more polluting and costly modes.”

The Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP), a group hosted by the World Bank, have worked to create a framework for improving railway performance, developing guidelines for mainstream road safety and transport governance within sub-Saharan Africa.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: BBC, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: Pexels

Cabs for Women by Women

As the recent rape and death of a young medical student in India has highlighted, the state of the safety and public health of women in the country are tenuous at best.  While there are a minority of women who can afford to have their own cars, usually with chauffeurs to drive them, most Indian women who live in the nation’s capital of New Delhi are subject to the public transportation system of the city, which is comprised of an army of rickshaws, taxis, buses, and trains, none of which can protect them from the harassment from or assaults by disrespectful men.

However, a local non-profit called Sakha Consulting Wing is trying to counter this particular hardship that Indian women face by creating a taxi service that is completely catered to and serviced by women called Cabs for Women by Women. The program has existed since before the December rape but following the event, the service’s business has greatly increased as more women fear for their safety in public.

“Women who used other cab services are also turning to us,” driver Shanti Sharma tells Rhitu Chatterjee of PRI’s The World.

Composed of eight women drivers and seven taxis, the service acts not only as protection for its customers but as empowerment for its drivers.

“Ever since I started doing this job, I feel like I’ve reached my destination. I don’t want to change jobs anymore,” says Shanti.

Well-paid, this is the first time that Shanti, a single parent, has enough regular income to support her three children, and she is proud of that.

Life for female cabbies in New Delhi is still not a walk in the park though. Ridiculously outnumbered by male counterparts and mostly male drivers on the road in general, Shanti has experienced harassment while doing her job in the form of feeling alienated by other cab drivers in the city and having strangers dangerously cut her off and honk at her.

According to Shanti, “The only way to change the attitude of the men…is to have more women driving.”

While this is not untrue, the harassment of Indian women throughout the country is a systemic issue that will take broad strokes against the patriarchy, so firmly entrenched in much of Indian society, to end. This is the situation that women face not only in India but in much of the world today.

As the 2015 deadline to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals looms closer, with less than 1000 days to go, notes United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the African Union Summit, one can only hope that the goal of achieving global gender equality will one day be met.

As they say: the sooner, the better.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The World , UN
Photo: The Huffington Post