Mayor Ngriker (Nebbi, Uganda) highlighted that like in the rest of the world, women and children face a disproportionate amount of suffering. In Nebbi, most agriculture and domestic work is done by women who currently are not being recognised and have little influence in decision-making. Key projects advancing the interests of women and girls, particularly those living in poverty, are The Women Empowerment Project (WEP) and The Presidential Initiative on Wealth and job creation (Emyooga).
Mayor Arsovska (Skopje, North Macedonia) is the first female mayor in 30 years of independent North Macedonia. She flagged one of the critical issues in Skopje, is that women are often not given equal opportunities. In response, the Skopje government has a strong focus on being gender-responsive across all policies, through implementing the principle of meritocracy. As a result, there has been an increase of over 50% more women in leading positions within the city administration as well the establishment of the Council for Women Entrepreneurs. Additionally, the Skopje government introduced gender budgeting and a new budget to fund female entrepreneurs, which has also been set up nationally.
Mayor Salgueiro (Matosinhos, Portugal), is the first female mayor of Matosinhos and the first woman to be elected as the President of the National Association of Municipalities (ANMP). She recognised that women in Matosinhos face a broad range of challenges and sources of inequalities. These inequalities include being more exposed to poverty, unemployment, or unequal pay, and frequently supporting unpaid care duties, with aspects such as colour, religion or sexual orientation representing other sources of disadvantages. To ensure a more prosperous future for women, the Matosinhos government is undertaking a range of initiatives. For example, the government is offering a continuous program of events and initiatives intended for different audiences and that is sensitive to a range of interests, covering leisure, recreation, culture, sports, or gastronomy. The local government is also carefully considering the sites and investments for constructing social housing or housing at controlled costs to guarantee that these sites have good integration into the city.
As in many other cities around the world, Mayor de Clercq (Gent, Belgium) shared that in Ghent, too many women, men, and people who do not identify themselves as binary are confronted with sexual harassment in public spaces. As a result, Mayor De Clercq and his government have taken a holistic, inclusive, and comprehensive approach to make Ghent a safe city for everyone. Measures within this include offering bystander training, to address the barriers to responding to discrimination in public spaces and providing support to victims of sexual harassment and assault. The local government has also set up a ‘No is No’ campaign that raises awareness and guides perpetrators of sexually transgressive behaviour to remedial support.
Deputy Mayor Ristani (Tirana, Albania) brought attention to the importance of building a city for all and taking a holistic and inclusive approach to city planning and management, instead of taking specific special measures for women. She highlighted that in Tirana and globally, women have been hindered in achieving their potential professionally or personally by the way cities have been built. For Deputy Mayor Ristani, making cities work for women is about learning to recognise how cities have been built for men and improve and correct what was wrong from the start. Deputy Mayor Ristani mentioned that this holistic approach is being applied in Tirana in both policy and city management and recognised the benefit of this approach. After all, actions taken to protect women will benefit all, and an investment for women is an investment for all.
C.llor Helen Holland, (Bristol, UK) stressed that, in Bristol and elsewhere, women are more likely to refrain from using public transport or other travel options that feel unsafe – impacting their ability to enjoy the city freely and access employment opportunities. In Bristol, the local government uses gender-based research and data to inform their approach and listens to those involved in the issue to co-design solutions. Moreover, the government recognises that women’s safety is not just an after-dark problem, but that cities are often designed with the daytime-only lens. The nighttime economy can address this safety issue. A specific initiative C.llor Helen Holland shared is the One City Principle, which brings partners, agencies, and organisations across the city together. The British Women’s Commission is part of this partnership approach and comprises senior women from various organisations, including the police and the Women’s Safety Task Group. Another key initiative C.llor Holland cited is the Bristol Night’s Women’s Safety Charter, which signed up nighttime economy organisations to the seven ‘Bristol Rules’, and offers free training for those organisations to raise awareness and enable staff to report and respond appropriately.
The audience then had the opportunity to share their opinions through two polls. This showed:
- 80% of the audience recognised that the most pressing safety and security issue for women in cities is unsafe streets and public spaces, including lighting.
- 43% of the audience recognised the greatest way to instigate change to improve safety and security for women in cities is through improving the representation of women in leadership and decision-making roles.
The session concluded with leaders and experts sharing a key recommendation on how to improve urban safety for women. These are set out in turn below:
- Mayor Geoffrey Ngriker (Nebbi, Uganda) – stressed that it is vital to give women greater opportunities to participate in decision making to better design policy that recognises their safety and security concerns
- Deputy Mayor Ristani (Tirana, Albania) – shared that it is critical for women with decision-making power to ensure that the policy agenda and every decision taken has specific consideration for women
- C.llor Helen Holland (Bristol, UK) – reminded the audience that to tackle the issues we are trying to solve, we must facilitate necessary conversations, engage with women, and listen to them.
- Sara Candriacci (Arup) echoed Deputy Mayor Ristani’s thoughts on the need for using an integrated and holistic approach that looks beyond women’s safety and security and combines very practical measures with systemic change in decision-making processes. She also raised the importance of involving men, especially those in decision-making power, to help them embed gender equity into their work.
- Kim Power (Arup) recommended that all decisions made by city leaders and other decision-makers should be based on data that has been gender-disaggregated to better guarantee that those decisions reflect the needs of local women.
Arup’s report Cities Alive: Designing cities that work for women, explores what cities would look like if they were designed for women. It asks how we create cities that are safer, more inclusive, and equitable for women. Arup’s report is produced in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Liverpool, identifies four key areas of focus for improving women’s lives in cities and outlines a new gender responsive approach to planning and design. It includes a wide range of case studies and supporting recommendations for city planners, developers, community groups and city authorities, globally. You can read the report here.