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Gender, Residential Location, and Household Travel: Empirical Findings from Low-income Urban Settlements in Durban, South Africa

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Urban development and transport policies designed to improve the livelihoods of poor communities need to consider the particular needs of women to be effective. Gender roles are played out in a spatial world, and can thus be expected to vary across the urban landscape. The paper examines empirical relationships between spatial factors - in particular residential location within the city - and travel behaviour for men and women in a cross-section of low-income communities in a large metropolitan area in South Africa. Data from a comprehensive household survey show that locality has a significant influence on gender experiences of mobility. Gender differences are greatest in more distant, rural localities, although site-specific characteristics such as walking access to social services, informal work, and small-scale agriculture help alleviate women's inequitable travel burdens. Central localities display the smallest differences between men and women's travel habits, supporting the notion that the high access afforded by centrally located housing helps to promote the satisfaction of women's daily needs as well as their strategic empowerment. Households in peri-urban and peripheral localities suffer the highest travel burdens, having neither the high access of a central location nor the livelihoods-enhancing amenities of a rural environment. Women bear a large part of this burden. Urban development strategies to benefit the urban poor while promoting gender equity are highlighted, including an added emphasis on the provision of social and educational infrastructure within closer proximity to peripheral residential areas, coupled with better pedestrian access.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Civil and Biosystems Engineering, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa 2: Faculty of Engineering and Technology, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana 3: Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, Masaryk University of Brno, Brno, Czech Republic

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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