OK, you may be thinking – what is Orange Day? Let me explain.
It’s a dedicated day, falling on the 25th October every year, when organisations around the world run activities to highlight the ways in which we can prevent and end violence against women and girls.
This year, the focus for Orange Day is how we go about making safe spaces for women and girls. And this is exactly what we’re trying to do with our Safe Cities programme work.
Women face ongoing sexual harassment and sexual violence in public spaces and avoid many parts of the city to stay safe
The Safe Cities movement recognises this. And its goal is to make sure that the way women and girls experience public spaces such as streets, buses, markets, parks and schools is taken into account when we’re designing how we want our cities to look and feel.
Gender inequality, which is widespread in cities, has a huge impact on women’s access to public services, political and economic participation and enjoyment of city life.
But the UN led campaign to End Violence Against Women is offering a platform for youth, civil society, NGOs, leaders and governments to take action.
As the co-ordinator of ActionAid’s Safe Cities work in Brazil, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, I see the impact that violence has on the lives of women and girls. Small changes to the areas where they live and work can have huge impacts.
For example, installing street lighting tends to reduce sexual violence as attackers can’t hide in the dark and women can recognise the risks earlier
In Ethiopia, women informal market vendors are claiming their right to safe transport, markets and sustainable livelihoods. In Liberia, young women are demanding safe education free from sexual harassment and violence in universities.
It’s exciting to see how many individuals, communities, cities, governments and organisations have joined the “women’s right to the city” movement.
So far we’ve seen actions from garment workers in Cambodia, women in the townships of Johannesburg and there have been strong commitments from city governments in New Delhi, Recife and Port Moresby.
But this is only the beginning. Orange Day represents another step towards building a global movement where all cities are designed for women and girl’s safety, participation and enjoyment.