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Six ways to incorporate inclusion into economic development and infrastructure investments


Reflections on the transport and urban ICAI review

The recent Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) review of DFID’s transport and urban infrastructure investments recommended ‘a more systematic approach to enhancing impact on poverty reduction and ensuring the inclusion of women, people with disability and marginalised groups, including monitoring intended and unintended impacts on target groups’.

 The review highlighted:

  • Lack of consideration for how infrastructure promotes inclusion and the entry points for inclusive growth, women’s economic empowerment and poverty reduction
  • Infrastructure project timelines were unrealistic and key processes such as community engagement are truncated, missing opportunities for improved transparency and accountability.
  • Problematic and risky areas such as land acquisition and safeguarding were often left to in-country partners to deliver, where DFID could be doing more to protect citizens’ fair and equal access to land and compensation, free from corruption and discrimination.

 Why does inclusion matter in cities?

Globally, there is a strong positive correlation between women’s position in society and economic growth. As the world continues to rapidly urbanise, the majority of future urban residents will be women, and a greater proportion of urban dwellers will live in female-headed households. Disability is estimated to affect 15% of global population. The number of people living in slums is increasing in real terms. These factors underscore the central importance of considering gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, youth,  disability inclusion and inclusive growth, for cities, which generate 80% of global GDP.

 Yet women and vulnerable groups face entrenched social, economic, and physical barriers to sharing in the benefits of urban economic growth.

 Six practical ways to promote inclusive economic growth in cities and infrastructure programmes

  1. Apply the Gender and Inclusion Framework for Transformative Change

SDDirect adapted the Gender and Inclusion (G&I) framework with Caroline Moser (2016), for DFID’s Infrastructure and Cities for Economic Development (ICED) facility, and was highlighted as promising in the ICAI review. 

The G&I framework maps out a continuum with different entry points and levels of ambition for mainstreaming gender and inclusion in urban and infrastructure programming from: minimum compliance (do no harm), to empowerment, to transformative change.

  1. Promote Women’s Economic Empowerment through Infrastructure and Urban development

Infrastructure services, if designed properly, can support women’s economic empowerment by reducing the burden of their unpaid household duties, their time poverty and mobility constraints and increasing their job and income opportunities, as well as their participation in urban planning and decision making.

Applying the Gender and Inclusion Framework to the transport sector, SDDirect’s briefing paper for ICED demonstrates how transport infrastructure can enable women to become economically empowered - adequate, affordable and well-designed infrastructure can serve as the first step for poor women to access expanded opportunities.

  1. Incorporate Universal Design for Disability Inclusion

The global cost to the economy from excluding people with disabilities is estimated to be between $1.7 trillion – $2.2 trillion annually, whereas the cost of inclusive infrastructure can be comparatively low.[1] Universal design is an important way to support all people, not only those with disabilities or impairments, to use and participate in the built environment.

Urban and infrastructure programmes should ensure universal design is incorporated into specifications and enforced through procurement. Understanding how people with disabilities use the built environment helps to promote a more comprehensive approach that spans physical, social, and economic interventions.

  1. Integrate Safeguarding Mechanisms

The ICAI review states that DFID often relies on in-country partners to deliver on safeguarding, which is risky, and that DFID could be doing more to monitor how safeguarding policies are implemented on the ground. It gives the example of how in Uganda, the practice of paying compensation on land acquisition to men, as heads of households, leaves women vulnerable to abandonment.

 SDDirect has provided safeguarding capacity development to DFID and numerous partners and programmes, from HQ level to grassroots civil society: for integrating into programme design; reporting and response mechanisms; and monitoring and evaluation to assess commitments. 

  1. Promote safety in public spaces and reduce violence against women and girls

Safe, inclusive and well-planned public spaces, infrastructure, urban services, and transport can reduce violence and harassment that women and girls face and increase access to economic opportunities. ICED’s series of briefing papers provide a framework for how to address violence against women and girls (VAWG) through infrastructure and cities programmes.

  1. Support meaningful community and stakeholder engagement including with women’s groups

Cutting short community engagement is a missed opportunity for improved people centred design.

Stakeholder engagement increases transparency and accountability with improved joint working between government, municipalities, the private sector and ordinary citizens. It supports leadership and collective action for and by women’s organisations – a key condition of success for transformative change, challenging gender stereotypes and adverse social norms which limit women’s participation and decision making.

Incorporating gender equality and social inclusion into urban and infrastructure investments improves value for money, development impact and contributes to the sustainable development goals.

It has been estimated that using universal design principles to make a community centre and a school accessible only added 0.47% and 0.78% to the overall respective costs. See: