As millions of women and men around the world rise today to demand an end to gender-based violence, I wanted to reflect on our safe cities initiative, a programme that ActionAid has been running for just over 2 years.
Our work, like the work of other organisations in the safe cities movement, is focused on the right to the city – the right of all city inhabitants to have equal access to all that cities have to offer and the right to change their city as they see fit.
Fundamental to ActionAid’s approach is the need to promote the right to the city for all inhabitants, especially poor and excluded women and girls living in poverty.
The concept of the right to the city aligns squarely with ActionAid’s theory of change. We put women at the centre of everything we do.
We believe that an end to unsafe cities can be brought about when poor and marginalised women and girls in cities have the capacity and are empowered to claim their rights.
We support these women to join hands and take collective action to deliver change for themselves. Local issues are raised at the global level where we believe that debates should be grounded in local concerns. Global solutions must resonate with local people.
As part of this initiative, we work hand-in-hand with our women’s rights partners.
In Brazil, we collaborate with Centro das Mulheres do Cabo (Women’s Centre of Cabo) to tackle the impact that new building projects are having on the safety and security of community women and their daughters.
This will become increasingly important as we’re seeing a boom in large-scale building projects ahead of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.
In Cambodia, the Workers Information Center will continue to challenge the failure of unions to take on “women’s issues”. It looks beyond the question of equal pay – which is by no means unimportant – to tackle issues affecting the daily lives of women garment workers, such as harassment and sexual violence outside of factories and the sexual and reproductive health rights of workers.
In Liberia, we’re working with Women Care International Foundation to make sure the voices of young university women are heard and that their right to education – which is fundamental for the long-term empowerment and equality of Liberian women – is not eroded by an unsafe environment for female students.
As we move forward, we’ll continue our work with communities in Recife, Phnom Penh and Monrovia and will continue to build links between communities in northern and southern countries, campaigning for an end to insecurity, fear and violence.
But alone, our work will not bring an end to the violence or the fear of violence that has become a daily occurrence for many women.
We never could have imaged that so many people would respond to the call to rise on the 14th February. Together, as a collective global movement, maybe a life free of violence for women and girls can become a reality.