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Safety and security in cities are a crucial concern of women and young girls

7 juin 2018

Cities will be sustainable only when women’s and girls’ perspectives are taken into account. This is the key message learned yesterday (6 June) during a session entitled “Cities for girls and young women = cities for all” at the European Development Days 2018 in Brussels, co-organised by PLATFORMA, Plan International, UN-Habitat and UCLG-Africa.

The New Urban Agenda and the SDGs provide an ambitious framework to deal with the challenges of urbanisation in the world. In particular, ensuring universal access to green and public space. But to build these inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities, it is key to involve the most vulnerable groups in the population in the design of the urban public policies that have a direct impact on them.

Girls and young women are both among the vulnerable and excluded population, and at the same time a driver for development of cities and local communities. The session sought to identify the elements of public policy that would be needed to ensure that both girls and boys, women and men of all ages can access and enjoy public space for social, economic or recreational uses.

« Managing by walking »

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, stressed that women face challenges in the public space and transport services in cities. For example, using public toilets is a dangerous experience for young girls in Kampala, Uganda, during the day. There, “95% of girls feel unsafe in public premises,” she said. The former Copenhagen city councilor insisted that “there is unfortunately no city in the world where women can walk at night in the streets and feel safe.”

The reality of living in cities has to be taken into account when planning and designing cities, explained Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). “Cities will be sustainable only when the perspectives of women and girls are included”, she said. As the local leaders on the ground are the mayors, they need to do “management by walking – seeing the city with those feeling insecurity every day”, she later explained.

This was echoed by Célestine Ketcha Courtès, Mayor of Bangangté Cameroun, United Cities and Local Governments-Africa, who stressed that more advocacy is needed for women at the local level. She made clear that in Africa, women represent 52 % of population and they are at the heart of development. However, all over the world, only 6% mayors are women! “We need to speak to young people as the future representatives of women,” she added.

The lessons learned during this session will be shared at the local level (CEMR Bilbao Conference), the EU level (European Development Consensus & EU Gender Action Plan) and UN level (UN High-level Political Forum session that will review SDG11 in July).

Watch the full session

Watch a snapshot of the session

Watch Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen interview

Watch Maimunah Mohd Sharif interview

Watch Célestine Ketcha Courtès interview

Check the EDD18 pictures