Skip to main content

IDS seminar on “Women’s safety and security in public transport in Mekelle, Tigray, Ethiopia”

poster of event

IDS seminar on “Women’s safety and security in public transport in Mekelle, Tigray, Ethiopia”

The Institute for Development Studies on Thursday, 30th May 2024 held its weekly seminar series, themed “Women’s safety and security in public transport in Mekelle, Tigray, Ethiopia” from 2pm-3.30pm EAT.

The presenter was Azeb T. Legese, while the moderator was Dr. Anne Kamau of IDS. Dr. Violet Wawire was the discussant.

Azeb T. Legese Bio

Azeb T. Legese is an expert in urban design and a researcher on sustainable mobility. She has conducted various studies on walkability, inclusive transportation, sidewalk design for non-motorized transport (NMT), mobility behavior and real-life experiments, and the impact of active mobility on the health and sustainability of cities. She took post-graduate training on Sustainable Mobility, Spatial Planning, and Urban Africa-scenario thinking in the Context of Rapid Urbanization.

Currently, Azeb is a Research Associate and a PhD candidate at the Department of Cycling and Sustainable Mobility, University of Kassel, Germany. Azeb has international research experiences in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Namibia, the Netherlands, and Germany. These engagements have given her the best practical experience in urban design and mobility systems.

Discussant Bio

Dr. Violet Wawire has been a lecturer at Kenyatta University, School of Education for the last fifteen years. Her areas of specialization are Gender, Social Inclusion and Development in Africa as well as qualitative research approaches. Past themes of research have been on the nexus between gender and transport, disability, youth, education, trade, and green skills building. She has vast local and international consultancy experience in evaluation work with NGOs and donor organizations including the European Union, Carnegie Foundation, FCDO, Population Council, UNFPA, and AFIDEP, among others. She is an accomplished author with numerous journal papers and book chapters on gender, intersectionality, and development under her docket. In the last three years, in collaboration with the Volvo Research and Educational Foundation (VREF), her concentration has been on understanding transport from a gender and equity lens, especially in the growing two-wheeler industry in Africa. She is currently conducting two gender research studies in informal settlements in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam; one on women and motorcycle taxi (bodaboda) transport and the other on women’s experiences with walking as a mode of transport.

Azeb’s Presentation

Azeb’s presentation indicated that men and women have different travel patterns and women face more challenges and limitations when it comes to public transport. Due to this, women have different mobility needs, preferences, and perspectives. The Study’s main objective was “To examine gender inclusiveness in the urban public transport of Mekelle city, Ethiopia”.

The Research objectives were:

  • Assess women’s safety and security in urban PT
  • Investigate women’s voices in the transport sector.
  • Examine links between PT and Job Creation for women
  • Examine the policy framework.

The study utilized both qualitative and quantitative methods. The researcher conducted desk review, IDI, KII, participant observation, and survey questionnaires. Azeb indicated they were unable to conduct FGDs due to insecurity concerns in the region.

Results and Findings

80.9 percent of women prefer mini buses as their means of public transport, 17% prefer the Bajaj (Tuk Tuk), 1.5% buses, and 0.6% Other.

Literature shows Sexual harassment is a serious problem globally and in Ethiopia. Irregularly increasing tariffs for women, and denying access to transport services for some women because of their body size, pregnancy, or because they carried children or goods is also a form of harassment faced by women. This indicates a clear violation of human rights as it reduces the dignity of women adversely affecting their day-to-day life.

In the study, 28.6% of respondents said they had experienced verbal abuse, 24.3% rudeness/insulting, 19% pushing during embarking, 7.8% discrimination, 9.6% physical abuse, and 10.6% uncomfortable stares.

Perpetrators of sexual harassment were 37.4% conductor, 23.6% passengers, 15.1% passersby, and 14.7% Driver. 42.1% of respondents said they “Do Nothing” as a reaction to harassment.

Some of the recommendations that emerged from the study include Awareness Creation, Development and enforcement of policy frameworks, Development of facilities that enable women to take part in public transport safely, Incentives, and use of digital technology in PT.

Dr. Wawire in her discussion of the paper, noted that the topic was very relevant and that lack of safety in transport for women is a violation of their human rights.


She recommended that the research gap should be indicated in the abstract. Further, the sample size would also have been good to know from the onset.

She noted that women are not homogenous in their experiences and gender in this paper intersects with age, and disability and this intersectionality can be taken up further.

She also underscored the importance of participant observation in such a research project.

Dr. Wawire finally recommended that Azeb considers other aspects of safety aside from harassment. There is safety from crime and even accidents that can be considered.

In her response, Azeb said the sample size was 705 women across the city, 7 cub-cities, cutting across different age groups and sectors. 52 rides were also conducted for observation.  

Questions and comments that arose from the seminar:

Saina Kiprotich: In Kenya, I always see women-only Ubers / taxi transport. Is this a sustainable solution or should we address harassment from an ethical point of view as a preventive measure rather than curative?

Mary Mwangi: In Mekelle City, do you have a trusted functional reporting mechanism for harassment?

Paschalin Basil: Exactly Mary. Maybe we need information and reporting desks in our bus stops. Let us hear the case of Ethiopia maybe we can borrow some tips.

Paschalin Basil: Great presentation Azeb. Similar issues on harassment reported in Kenya. My question is, are there clear reporting mechanisms and places in Mekelle, where people can report such cases? For instance, if today I am harassed, do I know who to report to? The issue of going to a police station has not been effective as nothing is likely to be done as reported by those harassed

Saina Kiprotich: Can we have a helpline to report cases of harassment? Placed at every public service vehicle?

Grace Musolo: Thank you Azeb, possibly under training or capacity building has the National Transport system in Ethiopia incorporated a tailor-made course specific to women's needs within the transport system?

Shams Afrin Islams: excellent research!! definitely relatable in other parts of the world as well.

Mary Mwangi: Great presentation. Thank you Azeb. On policy framework, would having a sexual harassment policy for public transport work?

Mathenge Mathenge: Let us note that reporting rape is so difficult in Kenya. The stigma, attitudes of the police, the victim blaming....there would need to be a societal look at what our relationship is with the female gender and how we view them. As Azeb has noted, this harassment happens in the open. People just watch, look away in disgust, others laugh etc, etc.
Azeb, great work. This really shows our experiences at bus stops, in cabs, on trains.

Safo Jattani: Great presentation. Was there a specific reason for choosing Mekelle? Has there been any changes after the research was done?

Prof Paul Kamau: Excellent Research and congratulations.

  1.  Methodology, what was the entry point Sample size??
    Good recommendations but who should handle this process of inclusivity given that most times transport is privately operated?
  2. How to improve reporting? 

Paschalin Basil: I always feel confident and secure when I use a taxi driven by a lady. I am not sure if this could be part of the reason why AN-Nisa - the only woman taxi got into the market.

We are professional and reliable provider since we offer customers the most powerful and beautiful themes. Besides, we always catch the latest technology and adapt to follow world’s new trends to deliver the best themes to the market.