Ways at scale. The issue of direct, indirect and


Ways in Which
Infrastructure Provision Can Improve or Burden Women’s Lives



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Cities are the engine of economic growth and infrastructure
development is the fuel for that engine to function. Infrastructure is the fundamental facilities and systems serving a
country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities essential
for its economy to function. It
typically characterises technical structures such as roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications (including Internet connectivity and broadband speeds), and so forth,
and can be defined as “the physical components of interconnected systems
providing commodities and services
essential to enable, withstand, or enhance societal living conditions.”
Infrastructure investments across
sectors have the potential to impact on women’s economic empowerment, when
designed both in a gender-sensitive manner, but also in a way that explicitly
seeks to impact upon women’s economic empowerment.


 Ways that improves women’s life as result
of provision of infrastructure

The importance of intentionality in this regard
cannot be overemphasized. Well-designed infrastructure investments in water,
sanitation, electricity, roads, safe transportation, affordable housing, ICTs,
manufacturing and service sectors, and public and community spaces have the
potential to:

Impact direct,
indirect and induced job creation within both the formal and informal economy;

Reduce the risk
of violence for women, girls and vulnerable groups;

   Promote women’s mobility and
employment prospects;

Reduce women’s
care burden;

household health and well-being;

access to markets;

productivity of existing activities;

Provide increased
and more stable incomes;

communities from natural and human-made disasters;

Yield new
opportunities through labour market participation, particularly in the
construction sector

Critically, given the size and reach of large
infrastructure projects, there is significant potential for such impacts to be
achieved at scale. The issue of direct, indirect and induced outcomes (both
positive and negative) around women’s economic empowerment is important to note
here. As is demonstrated in the different sectors below, while infrastructure
investments have the potential to have direct impacts on job creation in the
formal sector, as well as improved productivity through new technologies and
increased mobility through better transport options etc. they may also have
indirect and induced impacts on employment prospects in both the informal and
formal sectors (for example roadside vendors in the informal economy on new
trade routes), access to resources or markets (through improved mobility and
access to technology) and increased agency. They may also be able to reduce
drudgery of domestic labour, lower risks to women’s health and well-being, and
enable women to have choices over how to balance unpaid care work, paid
employment and leisure time. While induced impacts are harder to measure in
terms of programme outcomes, they are also important to consider again in terms
of both risks and opportunities in designing projects. Infrastructure can serve as a
critical enabler to women’s economic empowerment – adequate, affordable and
well-designed infrastructure can serve as the first step for poor women to
access expanded opportunities. However the following conditions play a key role
in ensuring that infrastructure can achieve its potential:

active engagement in the design, provision, and management of infrastructure
investments as well as in planning and policy processes more broadly. Adequate
inclusion of women’s practical as well as strategic needs in surveys that feed
into infrastructure design and planning are also critical.

of women’s collective voice to demand services and infrastructure. This can
strengthen women’s bargaining power and can serve to disrupt existing power

and joined up planning between government agencies. Evidence suggests that
unless there are coordinated, equitable and functioning democratic governance
mechanisms, infrastructure projects cannot be assumed to deliver equitable

in social norms that influence women’s ability to access and use
infrastructural resources at all levels (Kabeer, 2102). Infrastructure does not
in itself modify the institutional rules, regulatory framework or social
support services that can unlock strategic opportunities for women at scale.
However Infrastructure development can have enabling effects on women’s
economic empowerment when investments are planned from the outset to help
loosen restrictive gender relations and norms

in social services and other measures to allow women to reconcile paid and
unpaid work obligations (Antonopoulos, 2009). Unpaid care work can be
redistributed between women and their families, between families and employers
(e.g. in terms of decent parental leave policies) and between families and the
state (e.g. in terms of childcare services).

asset security for women through changes to land titling and tenure (Mitlin and
Satterthwaite, 2014). This has the potential to reduce the risk of violence,
increase control over resources and strengthen decision-making power.

innovation, which can facilitate the gathering and analysis of robust, real
time data on women’s infrastructure needs and current deficits, to feed into
planning as well as enabling women’s networking and access to information and

Infrastructure design and
delivery that acknowledge the differences between men and women with respect to access to and
use of infrastructure. These include:

of needs for the type and location of physical infrastructure;

in priorities for infrastructure services;

opportunities to participate in decision making on the choice of infrastructure
services, both within the households and within the communities;

opportunities to participate in the design and implementation of infrastructure
programs and in the delivery of services; and

disparities in access to infrastructure services.


Ways that
burdens women’s life as result of provision of infrastructure

Water supply

Impact of improved water supply on women’s time
poverty Access to clean water supply closer to home could, therefore, have a
significant impact on women’s time poverty, especially for poor women and girls
who otherwise tend to have the least access to clean water. Overwhelmingly, the
evidence confirms time savings for women and girls when there is improved
access to water supply. However, apart from significant and important impacts
on girls’ attendance at school, there is little hard evidence to show that time
saved is reallocated to activities that might have a transformative effect on
gender relations in a household, such as participation in market work.


The costs and benefits of improving sanitation in
some of the countries by comparing households with improved sanitation and
those without. The time saved in not having to find a place to defecate or
accompany children to do so and time saved in not having to care for the sick
due to the reduced incidence of disease were calculated and given an economic
value that could be factored into the equation. However, these calculations
were adjusted so that economic value was only given to the time that might have
been lost from paid work, and not unpaid work.


Apart from the anticipated time savings in
collecting firewood, a commonly held assumption is that connection to
electricity opens up the opportunity for labour-saving devices that would
reduce the time burden of housework on women. Also, since electric light helps
to lengthen the time that can be used for work or leisure activities, there is
more time available—both from time savings and from the lengthened day—for
women to engage in productive activities.


Perhaps, because of the complexity of how transport
infrastructure and services impact on the time allocation choices that are
made, and because of the significance of other impacts, women’s time use is
rarely mentioned in general transport literature—especially that relating to
Asia and the Pacific. However, the literature on the impacts of transport does
point to transport being transformation for women in other respects.



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