Wikigender is hosting an online discussion ”Engendering the city: women and urban governance” from Monday, 3 to Friday, 7 October, with partners UN-Habitat, Women in Cities International and the OECD Development Centre’s Gender Team.
There is increasing recognition of the importance of urban governance that is inclusive of women and girls. This entails responding to the needs of women and girls and ensuring the voices of women and men are heard equally in decision-making processes. The inclusion of women and girls in urban planning is an essential element of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable), which testifies to the growing consideration given to gender mainstreaming by the international community. Despite international consensus, women’s and girls’ lived realities are often left out of urban decision-making processes, and they continue to be underrepresented in urban governments.
To contribute to current debates on women and urban governance and to identify practical solutions, Wikigender (www.wikigender.org), in partnership with UN-Habitat and Women in Cities International, is organising an online discussion on the theme of women and urban governance.
UN-Habitat has identified two main areas of inclusive urban governance to help tackle gender inequality in cities. The first relates to gender mainstreaming in urban policy which has slowly gained ground among policymakers. However, gender mainstreaming has tended to be incorporated in small-scale projects, such as improving street lighting to address safety concerns or gender-sensitive training of local officials and staff (UN Habitat 2012). Other projects aim to harness new technology to integrate women’s experiences into urban planning decisions: for example, the New Delhi Municipal Commission works with the app Safetipin, which conducts safety audits in urban spaces based on women’s self-reporting of insecurity. In spite of this progress, issues of accountability persist and urban governance often remains gender-blind.
A second area of inclusive urban governance is realising women’s and men’s equal political representation in urban governments. Progress has been made in this area: for instance, a number of municipalities have introduced political quotas or created “women city councils” in an effort to increase women’s representation. Recently, women mayors were elected for the first time in major cities such as Paris, Rome, Tokyo or Madrid. Nevertheless, women are still underrepresented in municipal governments: in the European Union, they accounted for only 14% of mayors or other leaders of municipal councils in 2013. The same issues that limit women’s representation at the national level also contribute to their underrepresentation at the municipal level (such as negative stereotypes, lack of legal literacy, fewer resources and time-poverty). However, unlike at the national level, data on women’s participation in urban governments remain scarce.
In the lead up to the UN Summit on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in October, participants are invited to debate on the theme “Engendering the city: women and urban governance”. The discussion will run from 3 to 7 October, bringing together Hilary Murphy from UN-Habitat, Kathryn Travers from Women in Cities International (WICI), Sri Sofjan and Suranjana Gupta from the Huairou Commission, Caroline Andrew from the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa as well as experts from the OECD Development Centre.
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- IWPR ( 2015) White paper: Gender, Urbanization and Democratic Governance
- UN Habitat (2000) Policy paper: Women and Urban Governance
- UN Habitat (2012) Gender issue guide: Gender responsive urban planning and design
- UCLG (2015) The role of local governments in promoting gender equality for sustainability
- UCLG (2013) The equality agenda of United Cities and Local Governments
- UNSD (2015) The World’s Women 2015: Chap.5, Power and decision making
- Zebracki, Martin (2014). Sex in the city: gender mainstreaming urban governance in Europe
- ESCAP, LOGOTRI (2001) Women in Local Government in Asia and the Pacific