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Mapping for Policy: A “Whole Journey” Approach to Tackling Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violent Victimization in Public Transit
August 23, 2017


The Urban Institute, a think tank based in Washington D.C., and Information Technology University’s Data Science Lab recently won an award worth USD 100,000 from the World Bank Group and Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) to understand barriers to women’s increased use of public transit system in Lahore. Aim of the proposed study is to identify solutions to improve women’s physical mobility and economic empowerment by using Lahore Metrobus System as a case study to inform transit systems nationwide. Urban Institute will partner with Information Technology University (ITU) Punjab’s Data Science Lab and Lahore-based NGO HomeNet Pakistan as project implementation partners in Lahore. Dr. Faisal Kamiran, Director at ITU’s Data Science Lab, along with Dr. Ammar Malik and Dr. Yasemin Irvin-Erickson, researchers at Urban Institute are the principal investigators for this study.

An expert panel reviewed more than 200 proposals submitted to the World Bank Group and SVRI following an open call in July 2016 for innovations to prevent gender-based violence in low- and middle-income countries. Winning teams were chosen based on overall merit, research or project design and methods, significance, team expertise, and ethical considerations.

Context of the Problem:


Sexual harassment in public spaces is an under-recognized human rights violation that disproportionately affects women and girls every day. There is a high risk of sexual victimization in public spaces in low- and middle-income countries, where women and girls are increasingly entering the public domain. Based on the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap for 2016, Pakistan ranks as the second worst country in the world in terms of gender equality. Pakistan ranked just above Yemen out of 144 countries; even war-torn Syria performed better than Pakistan with a rank of 142.

Beyond the devastating personal costs, gender-based violence (GBV) inflicts a steep economic toll: estimates of resulting lost in productivity run as high as 3.7 per cent in some economies. According to World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, GBV thrives on secrecy and indifference with devastating consequences. This award honors GBV victims and survivors around the world and aims to help individuals, communities, and nations overcome this problem.

Principal Investigators:

  • Ammar A. Malik


He is a senior research associate in the Center for International Development and Governance at the Urban Institute. His research focuses on the causes and consequences of global urbanization, including the spatial structures of cities, the political economy of public service delivery, and the relationship between economic growth and human mobility within cities. He leads the center’s thematic area on global urbanization. Malik’s multidisciplinary research has been published in several academic journals. He has previously worked on projects for the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, UNESCO, International Food Policy Research Institute, and Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. Malik holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan, master’s degrees in public policy and public affairs from the National University of Singapore and Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and a PhD in public policy from George Mason University.

  • Yasemin Irvin-Erickson


She is a senior research associate in the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center. Her research focuses on crime prevention and social protection through the lens of inclusive growth and sustainable development. Irvin-Erickson directs projects on economic resilience of women and girls, refugees, and geographies disproportionately affected by violent crimes. She is also an associate editor for Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal. Previously, Irvin-Erickson was the research director for global mapping at Rutgers Center on Public Security and a lecturer at Rutgers University–Newark. Her research has been presented at national and international conferences and appeared in peer-reviewed publications and research briefs. Irvin-Erickson earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Middle East Technical University, a master’s degree in forensic science from Istanbul University Institute of Forensic Sciences, and a doctorate degree in criminal justice from Rutgers School of Criminal Justice.

  • Faisal Kamiran


He received his PhD degree from The Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands in 2011. Later, he joined the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) as a post-doctorate fellow. Faisal joined Information Technology University in 2013 as the first tenure-track professor, and is currently the Director of Data Science Lab. Under his aspiring leadership, DSL is working on cutting edge research projects that aim to solve locally relevant problems, e.g., disease outbreak prediction and spatiotemporal analytics of crime data. To his credit, his publications span more than 25 refereed papers in various prestigious journals and conferences.


Project Manager:

  • Fatima Abbas


She is managing this project for Urban Institute. She completed Master’s in Public Policy with a specialization in International Development from the National University of Singapore, and BSc. Honors in Economics from the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Skilled in research, monitoring and evaluation, and project management, she has worked for various organizations including United Nations ESCAP, Thailand, United States Agency for International Development, Harvard University, Oxford University, National University of Singapore, U.S. State Department, and Telenor, Pakistan. Her research interests include gender and women empowerment, education, health, agriculture, transport, microfinance, industrial growth, and international relations and security.



DSLsciencelab                                                                   homenet


Media coverage:

This World Bank award ceremony held in Washington D.C. in April 2017 received both local and global media coverage including newspapers like Dawn and Express Tribune, blogs and online articles. SVRI shares the details of the project here, while World Bank website has also covered details of the award and ceremony.


The principal investigators received the grant in April 2017. The piloting of field research activities took place in May 2017 starting with a 2-day training for field researchers at ITU. The participants, both male and female, were trained in using an innovative mobile application developed by DSL to capture the fear and perceived risk of crime walking to, waiting for, and traveling in transit through a survey. Informed by the whole journey approach the conditions and passenger experiences were observed in three stages: arrival at a stop to board the vehicle; boarding a vehicle; traveling within the vehicle. At the end of each day in the field, focus group discussions were conducted separately with male and female researchers to gather an in-depth understanding of men’s and women’s needs in transit settings, the precautions taken to avoid victimization, and their suggestions to make changes to the transit system.

Additionally, a focus group discussion was held with female passengers who use public transport daily; public transport officials and bus company manager were also interviewed.

The pilot was carried out on a comparatively smaller scale to test and fine tune research instruments and training of the field researchers. Full field research implementation activities are planned to take in place in September.

Key findings:

A preliminary analysis of results from the pilot shows that:

  • The real trouble women face when they leave their houses to use public transport is overcrowding, not just on the road, but also inside buses
  • Features of public transport that were not women-friendly were also frequently mentioned, including lack of sufficient seating inside buses and absence of sheltered bus stops with drinkable water and toilets.
  • When asked about recommendations, our field researchers were most insistent on the following:
    • Signs and instructions for laws and penalties for sexual harassment
    • Helpline numbers for victims of sexual harassment
    • Adequate lighting
    • Crowd control
    • Buses and/or sections within buses reserved for women


Below is a picture of women-only bus in Guatemala



  • April 18, 2017: Project Team receives award from World Bank
  • May 22, 2017: Project Team meets Mr. Patchamuthu Illangovan, World Bank’s Country Director for Pakistan.
  • May 15th – May 26th, 2017: Project Team conducted piloting of field research activities
  • October 2nd – 16th, 2017: Project Team will conduct full implementation