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Valentina Montoya Robledo

S.J.D. 2020

vmontoyarobledo at


Invisible: A Local Government Law Study on Domestic Workers Commuting in Public Transportation Systems in Bogotá and Medellín

Massive groups of highly vulnerable female paid domestic workers, despite having to commute everyday to work, are severely underserved by the public transportation systems in place in Bogotá and Medellín. Underservice implies that as a group, they face the longest commutes of all employees between distant low-income and a high-income residential areas; they engage in multiple trips not only to get to work but also because they have to travel to respond to their familial responsibilities; they spend a big percentage of their salary in transportation; tethered to the public transportation system, they experience uncomfortable and overcrowded stations and vehicles where they often suffer racial, gender-based and physical violence; and they are forced to follow arbitrary rules of conduct inside the vehicles that instead of helping them further harm them.

Legislative and executive public officials, as well as urban and transportation planners, at the national and local level, account for this underservice. They legislate to protect national and local finances, autonomy of political entities, and private companies that render public services. They plan for an imaginary “average commuter” that follows male commuting characteristics. This “average commuter” travels from the periphery to the center; does not engage in chain trips; does not use transportation to execute familial responsibilities; earns more and spends less in transportation; and does not suffer gender-based violence in vehicles and stations. From the perspective of Local Government Law, this dissertation tells the story of the mismatches between what legislators and planners think, execute, whom they legislate and plan for and who are they not seeing, versus the daily problems facing domestic workers as invisible commuters. It further proposes solutions to address these mismatches. By finding ways to respond to domestic workers’ needs, the dissertation aims not only at making domestic workers visible, but also at providing solutions for users that share characteristics with them in Latin American cities to enable inclusive public transportation for all.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Local government law and Slums: formality and informality with Professor Gerald Frug, Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • The family and the market in law and legal theory with Professor Janet Halley, Harvard Law School
  • Theory of Social Movements with Professor Lucie White, Harvard Law School
  • Anthropology of the city with Professor Ajantha Subramanian, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Additional Research Interests

  • Gender and Women’s Rights
  • Human Rights
  • Law and Society
  • Transportation Policy
  • Local Government Law


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. 2020
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. Program, 2012-2013 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, M.A. Legal Theory, 2012
  • Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, B.A. Political Science, 2010
  • Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, LL.B., 2009

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard Law School, 2018-2019, Byse Fellow, Workshop: “Urban Segregation and Inequality in Latin American Cities: A Local Government Law Perspective”
  • Harvard Kennedy School, 2019, Fellowship from the John R. Meyer Transportation Policy Fund
  • Harvard Law School, 2015-2018, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Writers’ Workshop
  • Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Women and Gender Studies, Spring 2017-2019, Junior Tutorial Fellow
  • Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Women and Gender Studies, Fall 2016, American Social Bodies Teaching Fellow
  • Harvard Law School, 2014-2015, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor

Representative Publications

Additional Information

Languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese

Last Updated: August 20, 2019