Blog post Abuja July 2019
“By the roadside it was a mad rush as okadas (motorbike-taxis) were really scarce. Everyone was in a hurry to get one. So they were little or no bargain for prices, the riders were obviously taking advantage of that. Just as we were standing hoping to get an okada I heard loud screams of various people, some were saying aaahhh! Jeesuus, Auzibilahi!! Yeeyeee! Inna lalahi [Aaahh, Jesus, I seek refuge from the devil, everything is from God!. The two young men I was standing with all turned and saw an okada, its rider and a mother in her early 30s with her school-girl daughter on the ground all in in the mud. We all rushed to them; young men took up the bike, making it stand, everyone was ok only the mother sustained injury on her elbow while trying to shield her daughter from the impact of the fall. I almost felt like trekking- and not taking an okada, but I would be late so I had to” (A peer researcher’s travel diary).
On the 20 May 2019, we kicked off our Nigeria field research for the project “Youth engagement and skills acquisition within Africa’s transport sector: promoting a gender agenda towards transitions into meaningful work.” The project, which is being conducted in peripheral, low-income neighbourhoods of three different cities in Africa – Tunis, Abuja and Cape Town – is aimed at understanding the diverse transport-related constraints young women living there experience in their day-to-day lives and how transport-related issues impact on their work opportunities. Transport is not simply about getting to a destination: mobilities are experienced through the body and are part of everyday life – they may not only be physical but also virtual (particularly through the use of mobile phones to leapfrog physical distance). Young people travel to school, work or when visiting relatives or friends, either by walking or using private or public transport, and often experience unequal power relations when doing so.
The story related at the start of this blog was just one of many difficult tales we heard in a hotel conference room in Abuja as we worked with the seven motivated young women from local communities whom we were training as peer researchers. By training young women (aged between 18 and 35) from the communities so that they can research the experiences of their peers in their home neighbourhoods at the outset of this project, we hope to get a much stronger understanding of the mobility challenges such women face in their daily lives. We have taken this approach to ensure that our subsequent action study is fully grounded in the questions and issues they raise. This approach is novel but has been used very effectively in a series of mobility studies with commonly disadvantaged groups by the project PI (e.g. Porter 2016; Porter et al. 2017): it forms the first stage of the project in all three of the study cities.
Despite our workshop taking place during Ramadan in Nigeria, the workshop days were filled with intense discussion and debate. The peer researchers interviewed each other, mapped out the locations they considered as unsafe/safe on large sheets of paper, and discussed why they found certain areas problematic. Field exercises, interspersed with classroom work, ensured that the peer researchers own travel stories, travel diaries and the initial interviews they conducted with people in their home communities were shared and discussed. Some of the women and girls interviewed during this week had experienced significant violence in their daily travels, from knife threats to severe traffic accidents when travelling in overcrowded vehicles; occasionally their money was stolen. Many young women said they often felt unsafe travelling in the city, but were still compelled to travel, despite this insecurity, in order to make a living.
At the end of the training week our seven peer researchers received certificates for their participation, but they are now continuing data collection, with support from the research assistants (staff at the University of Abuja and Jos who were trained to provide support to the peer researcher teams through their participation in the workshop process itself).
During the week we also held the first of the Nigeria Country Consultative Group (CCG) meeting. Here the project team [see below] and our peer researchers were joined by representatives from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (FMWASD), National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company (AUMTCO), village leaders, youth leaders, the National Centre for Woman Development, the International Women’s Centre as well as Abuja Urban Mass Transportation Company. All actively engaged in the discussions and raised important points. Some argued that there was a stereotype that public transport jobs were mainly for men, and it was hard to motivate women to be involved either as bus drivers, or conductors. Others were more optimistic, claiming that they had been overwhelmed by the response of women who wanted to be involved in the transport sector, perhaps as conductors or mechanics. At the meeting, a few of the participants reminded us of the need to consider important issues such as disability and the need to take into account diverse types of pedestrians in the planning and actual physical construction of bridges. Disabilities can have a major impact on women’s experience of transport, but pregnant women may also have difficulties when traversing the footbridges. Further, we should be aware of women travelling on foot in particular.
The peer researchers are still busy conducting interviews with community members as well as reporting their personal travel stories. We will keep you posted on the progress of our research and the main issues emerging.
Prof Gina Porter, Durham University, UK (Project PI)
Dr Claire Dungey, Durham University, UK (Project PDRA)
Dr Fatima Adamu, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (Nigeria country lead)
Dr Plangsat Dayil, University of Jos (Nigeria CI)
Mrs Hadiza A. Ahmad, University of Abuja (RA)
Mr Yahaya Joseph Mshelia, University of Jos (RA)
Mrs Sa’adat Yakubu, Assistant Field Researcher
Our peer researchers:
Aisha Umar Mohammed, Aisha Musa, Umar Nasirat Usman, Bulus Patience, Maryam Abdullahi, Hafsat Adamu, Hauwa Mohammed.
 Had to leave the project due to time constraints