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With young people at the helm, we get a fresh look at inclusive mobility.

As diversity and inclusion receive increasing attention, the issue of gender differences in the mobility sector remains an important topic of discussion. The celebration of International Women's Day 2024 provided an excellent opportunity to highlight this issue. Mobility organization Mpact responded to this by organizing an event in March where students were challenged to look for solutions for gender-equal mobility during a hackathon. This innovative approach, part of the SMEP! project, funded by FPS Mobility & Transport, highlights the need for an inclusive view of mobility and the potential impact of direct dialogue between young people and policymakers.

Historically, the mobility system has been primarily designed around the traditional pattern of the working man, leading to an infrastructure that is less responsive to the complex mobility needs of women. This is reflected in the limited representation of women in leading positions within the sector, with only 15,5% of ministers with a transport portfolio in European countries and 8% globally being women. This gender discrepancy manifests itself not only in policymaking, but also in the daily experiences of women, who report a higher sense of insecurity and are more likely to be targets of sexual aggression during their travels.

The survey asked about 200 students, the initiators hope that they can inspire others to also work on gender differences in mobility or to involve young people in policy.

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“Students think more out-of-the-box than people who have been in the field for a long time. We can certainly use those fresh ideas and perspectives.”

The hackathon and accompanying survey among 200 Belgian university and college students highlighted the different challenges and needs of women in public transport and shared mobility. The students proposed making mobility solutions and designs more gender-neutral, by paying attention to digitalization and accessibility of shared scooters, among other things. These types of fresh ideas and perspectives are possible, according to project director Tjalle Groen van Mpact are of great value to policy makers, especially at local level, where immediately applicable solutions such as better street lighting and clear sight lines are crucial for a safer and more inclusive public space.

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“Involving women and young people more at every level of the mobility world is part of the solution to improving mobility for everyone,” says Groen. “We are all affected by mobility. That is why it is important to see all groups represented in the decision-making process. Both young people and older people can teach us something that will benefit everyone.”

In addition to these practical improvements, Groen emphasizes the importance of involving women and young people in the planning and decision-making process. By incorporating their direct experiences and insights, mobility solutions can be better tailored to the needs of all users. Initiatives such as 'walk shops', where policymakers literally walk through the city together with women and other target groups, can provide valuable insights for the redesign of public space.

In light of these developments, it is clear that a gender-friendly approach to mobility not only leads to greater equality, but can also improve safety and convenience for all citizens. Mpact's activities around International Women's Day and the SMEP! project demonstrate an important shift in how we think about and work on mobility solutions, with a strong emphasis on inclusivity and direct community involvement.

It is another example of involving young people European Youth Capital-initiative, which will take place in Ghent in 2024. Mpact hopes that such moments will also be used to discuss the design of public space in terms of mobility and gender equality.

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