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Mobility and spatial accessibility of urban women : Capabilities and well-being

Abstract : Historically, women have been kept out of the city planning process due to embedded social and cultural attitudes which restricted them to the private sphere. As planning, architecture and engineering were male dominated professions, few women had a voice at policy-making level of city building, a situation which has not altered drastically even today. With the feminization of the labour force, more women began to occupy the public space and use urban infrastructure.Yet,it was not until the 1970s that feminist geographers began to point out that women’s movement pattern in the city was distinctly different from that of men’s. Women made shorter, more frequent trips and ‘trip chained’ i.e. linking their work trips to trips made for household and family related needs. This was different from men’s trajectories which were largely linear. Women also carried babies and grocery bags and pushed strollers while on the move. They had less access to private vehicles, walked more and used more public transport than men did. These behaviours have over time changed in western societies but remain stubbornly in place in developing countries.Researchers observed that the peculiarities of women’s mobility was due to two factors . Firstly, despite being in the labour force in increasing numbers, women’s responsibilities at home did not change. Working women bore ‘double burden’ of both work and household/child care responsibilities. The resulting ‘time poverty’ impacted their professional careers as women have been found to take jobs closer to home so that commute time can be saved. Consequently, women have restricted themselves to certain types of occupations that can be performed without threatening the management of the home front. Additionally, women’s mobility was restricted spatially and temporally by the risk of sexual harassment in public spaces including in transit environments like buses and metro stations.The studies which brought these issues of gendered mobility to the forefront have almost always been done in western contexts. Very little is known about the mobility of urban working women in less developed countries of Asia. Further, the role and impact of mobility on women’s overall lives has not been examined in existing literature. This study uses a qualitative approach to enhance our understanding of urban women’s experiences of the city as they move through public spaces in the following ways :1)Using the capability approach, the study micro examines urban women’s daily mobilities and their time usage in different activities performed during a working day. Having done that, it focusses on how their capability for mobility affects other capabilities necessary for well being, such as the capabilities for leisure, for health and fitness or for nurturing valued relationships. Such an approach, of looking at women’s mobility through the lens of capabilities and its role in women’s overall lives is a hitherto unexplored perspective.2)The study puts the spotlight on accessibility, showing that while mobility is vital, it is an insufficient condition to improve people’s quality of life. What is more meaningful as a goal for policy makers is the improvement of spatial accessibility, which encompasses reachability and quality of the journey undertaken.3)In order to operationalize the capability approach, a new visual technique named ‘Game of Cards’ using picture cards was created to elicit responses about achieved and potential functionings.4)As the primary research was done in three cities across a developed and developing country-France and India- it offers valuable insights about the commonalities in the lives of working mothers, that cut across the binary of developed and developing countries.The study concludes that the capability for mobility and spatial accessibility is not only vital on its own for women but is also instrumental in the attainment of other capabilities necessary for well being.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 3:15:25 PM
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Vandana Vasudevan. Mobility and spatial accessibility of urban women : Capabilities and well-being. Geography. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019GREAH013⟩. ⟨tel-02503439v2⟩



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