August 01, 2023

Transport Planning in Brazil Should Be More Inclusive of Women of Color

Brazil’s National Urban Mobility Policy has the core objective of reducing transport inequalities and promoting more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable mobility in every Brazilian city. However, actual progress towards these goals in the country’s public transport planning often leaves out one of the region’s most vulnerable social groups — women of color. 

This article was originally posted in Portuguese on ITDP Brazil’s website here.

It is well known that our cities and transport systems have historically been planned based on the assumption that all people use, occupy, and access their cities in the same way — an assumption that is proving increasingly incorrect in today’s world. A new project from ITDP Brazil, developed in collaboration with CEERT (Center for the Study of Labor Relations and Inequalities) entitled Transport for All: Gender and Race in Urban Mobility finds that Brazil’s population of Black women have been the most adversely impacted by the “gender-neutral” approach to mobility planning, and that they experience significant inequalities in urban access compared to their white counterparts. This is the unfortunate result of. both urban and national transport infrastructure that continues to neglect the needs, travel patterns, and perspectives of lower-income Black and Brown women living in Brazilian cities. 

In the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo, fore example, the project found that 52% of the population is made up of women, 43% of whom identify as Black. However, only 10% of the lowest-income populations live near medium- or high-capacity public transport stations, according to ITDP Brazil’s MobiliDADOS transport data platform. When it comes to the communities Black women, that number is even lower, at less than 10 percent. Unfortunately, although existing transport systems and policies are not designed to serve women of color, they are often the groups who rely on public transport the most in cities. 



To address these stark disparities, the Transport for All project offers several steps for advancing mobility policies and interventions to better serve Black women going forward. The first action is to acknowledge and incorporate the intersectional issues of gender and race into Brazil’s mobility policies. This concept of intersectionality, made popular by the American civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, establishes that the characteristics of gender and race must be analyzed together to understand the exclusion to which Black women are subjected — socially, politically, and economically. There currently exist several challenges to integrating a culture of planning and implementation when it comes to developing public policies that consider gender and race in an intersectional way, such as:

  • The historical lack of diversity in the composition of employees of transport management companies — including within operators and leadership — mainly at the highest levels with decision-making power;
  • The limitations of the organizational structure of companies, which do not view these issues of diversity as a priority;
  • The main source of information on travel patterns in cities, such as Origin-Destination Surveys, that often do not collect data on race, which generates public policies that reinforce a ‘blindness’ to inequalities.   

Within the context of these challenges, ITDP Brazil worked together with CEERT and other partners on this Transport for All initiative that has focused on understanding the connections and impacts of gender and race across urban mobility frameworks and policies in Brazil. The aim is to not just raise awareness of these issues, but to also improve resource training and reduce the structural inequities built into the transport sector, with a particular focus on the city of São Paulo. The project assessed three main areas:

1. An intersectional perspective of gender and race in transport system planning

In this area, the team collected and surveyed the perceptions of users and people involved in the planning of public transport across São Paulo. The objective was to identify convergences between the needs, desires, and obstacles facing women of color who use public transport and the understandings of those who plan and lead the system on a day-to-day basis.

2. An intersectional perspective of gender and race in the operation of the transport system

The team assessed ways to mitigate cases of gender and racial violence and harassment on public transport systems. Currently, the number of complaints is lower than the reported cases and the complaints that are filed do not always lead to resolution or punishment. The team’s proposal includes recommendations for the creation of a pilot project for a unified care protocol to address cases of harassment and violence on public transport.

3. An intersectional perspective of gender and race in transport system management

The team also carried out a diagnosis to promote policies that increase the presence of women, especially Black women, that are employed in the public transport sector in São Paulo. Currently, the transport sector workforce is predominantly composed of white men. In order to create changes that better meet women’s mobility perspectives and needs, it is essential that we guarantee the active participation of women of color in the sectors responsible for the delivery of services.

All of the products and reports produced from the Transport for All project can be downloaded below.


These resources include a number of recommendations for improving Brazil’s overall urban mobility infrastructure as well as for planning transport systems that employ an intersectional view of gender and race in both practice and policy. The materials developed offer specific recommendations for the City of São Paulo, but also provide general recommendations for other Brazilian cities seeking to advance equity, accessibility, and inclusion in their work.

It should be noted that the discussions proposed in this project’s products do not end with these reports. The goal is that they will provide foundational elements for reflection and knowledge-sharing, ultimately serving as guides for inspiration, action, and progress towards the improvement of urban mobility systems across the region. It is critical that all city governments take urgent steps to ensure that their development strategies and transport policies are increasingly sensitive, transformative, and responsive to the intersection of gender, race, and wealth. 

This project was led by ITDP Brazil, together with the CEERT and Multiplicidade Mobilidade Urbana, within the scope of the Smart Mobility Program of São Paulo, with support from the World Bank, the UK Government, and the Municipal Secretariat for Mobility and Transit of the City of São Paulo.

Visit ITDP Brazil’s virtual education platform MobiliCAMPUS to access the ‘Gender and Race in Urban Mobility’ course inspired by this project and download the project’s Executive Summary in English.


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