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As part of its efforts to introduce gender considerations into the design of some of its infrastructure projects, the EBRD launched a Gender Advisory Services programme for the Kyrgyz city of Osh that is linked to an EBRD €5.7 million loan aimed at improving the municipality’s public transport system.

The Kyrgyz government is on-lending the sovereign financing to the municipal authorities in Osh for the benefit of the Osh Public Transport (OPT) Company. The loan will help finance the purchase of new trolleybuses and buses, the modernisation of trolleybus infrastructure, and the introduction of a new ticketing system. The Early Transition Countries Fund, the Czech Republic and the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund (SSF) supported an investment in new low-floor trolleybuses which resulted from an analysis conducted by the Bank to assess how men and women used public transport and their respective priorities. The new trolleybuses allow easier access for passengers with prams and shopping bags, especially women.

The EBRD developed a Gender Advisory Services programme for the municipality after pre-investment due diligence revealed that only 20 of OPT’s 236 employees were women and that only one of the company’s 164 drivers was a woman. OPT, meanwhile, expressed an interest in receiving Bank support to recruit more female drivers and make its services more responsive to the needs of all of its passengers, including women.

Since the start of the two-year programme, which is funded by the SSF, OPT has recruited a second female driver, this time a trolleybus driver. Under the same initiative, the EBRD organised a training session in Osh in September 2015. This brought together key staff from the city administration and OPT to look at how gender perspectives can be incorporated into human resources (HR) management and municipal services and how to develop a gender action plan for OPT.

Participants discussed increasing employment opportunities for women, better communication with the public and improving workplace conditions and facilities (such as showers and toilets) for safety and sanitary reasons. They also explored how to better tailor Osh’s transport service to the needs of male and female passengers and consultants will use their ideas for the programme’s next steps.

Focusing on gender equality brings about benefits that go beyond the provision of good transport services or having more women drivers in the company. Equality in the workplace benefits all employees by increasing staff engagement overall, the social benefits include increased employment and improved access to transport for vulnerable populations and the environmental benefits include better air quality thanks to reduced private car use.