Cities for whom? Gender inequality in the cities

Monday, March 7, 2016 - 12:58

In 2014, just before FIFA’s World Cup in Brazil, social movements were protesting in the streets using messages like “Come to the streets!” “It’s not only about R$0,20”. These were struggles for better quality and accessible public services. We also saw in USA and in other parts of the World, groups and movement calling “Occupy the streets, occupy our cities” while demanding the fulfillment of their rights. And what all these different movement have in common? The fight for an inclusive, fair and equal city!

The cities are not only a territory where part of population lives. Cities must also be a common good that allows everyone, in an inclusive matter, to become an active citizen, with gender equality, inter-generation respect, and promoting the wellbeing towards a quality life with dignity. In essence, the city is a right.

However, in practice, what we see normally are unequal and excluding cities. People who are living in poverty and, especially women, have not their rights fulfilled. For these groups, there are unsafe public spaces and poor quality services. Also, there is a lack of participation in the cities’ decision-making process.

Regarding women, this situation is even worse. Cities were not planned to attend the strategic and practical needs of women. The sexism rooted in our societies also plays a pivotal role for the exclusion of women in public spaces. There is a thinking that for women, the private; for men, the public. As a consequence, the fear of violence and harassment becomes a constant feeling among women when walking in streets or accessing public services. Often, women suffers harassment when using these services or in public spaces. And when they go to report these cases of violence, the authorities usually blame women themselves, as if their attitudes were the reason to suffer these violence and harassment. All of these issues limits and violates women’s rights of coming and going in the cities.

We need to change this scenario! In 2016, we have a great international opportunity, which is the III UN Conference on Habitat. In this event, there will be an agreement on a new urban agenda, with proposal for action that will be further implemented and monitored by government for the next 20 years. We need to fight for the respect, protect, and fulfillment of the right to the city and to engender the new urban agenda. We need to end gender inequality in the cities.

And to end this inequality, there is a need to open channels of participation of women, especially those who lives in poor communities. Women have an important voice in the urban planning of the cities, in the definition of policies and on budgeting. Promoting the participation of women is to redistribute the power in the cities!

We also need the commitment of Government, Parliament and services providers to promote action and measures to end violence in public spaces and to promote gender responsive public services for all.

Finally, we need measures to fight the sexism rooted in our society. Educative actions in public spaces and in services, as transport, needs to be stimulated and promoted to question sexism. An equal city for women means an inclusive, fair, democratic and sustainable city for all!