Cities Alive: Designing Cities that Work For Women

The report seeks to drive attention to the usage of public spaces equitably and to ensure all genders are taken into consideration during urban planning. 

United Nations Development Programme in partnership with Arup and the University of Liverpool has released a report – ‘Cities Alive: Designing Cities That Work for Women’. The report seeks to drive attention to the usage of public spaces equitably and to ensure all genders are taken into consideration during urban planning. 

The report presents four thematic areas that can be used to influence how cities are planned and make them more inclusive and welcoming for women. Under each thematic area, the report suggests actionable features that can be used by policymakers. These features are the best practices urban practitioners have used to design inclusive cities around the world. 

Safety and Security    

To ensure a quality of life, a sense of safety and security is essential. Women’s well-being is hugely impacted by the experience and fear of danger in cities. This danger becomes a hurdle for women to enjoy and access the full range of opportunities provided by the city. 

Strategy – Improve lighting design in streets and public spaces 

For example – In Melbourne, Arup has identified lighting requirements across cities where women felt unsafe and developed a Nightime Vulnerability Assessment. They use this data to ensure nighttime spatial equity. 

Justice and Equity

Cities should have availability and accessibility of land use policies and urban schemes to ensure justice and equity in an urban landscape. The decision-making body should not only include the perspective of women but women should also be included in the decision-making process while framing urban policies. 

Strategy – Assess the contribution of existing laws and policies to gender outcomes

For example – The Canadian government has created Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) to understand how programs and social policies affect the various identities including women. This ensures that policies do not act as exclusionary for various identities. 

Health and Well being 

The Health and Well being of a city can be ensured by creating built environments that cater to sexual and reproductive healthcare, sanitation facilities, green environments, and safe and inclusive mobility options. This will ensure the facilities built by urban practitioners cater to the mental and physical health of women. 

Strategy – Promote sports facilities and physical activity in public spaces  

For example – Sport for Women in urban places in collaboration with companies from  France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands produced guidelines to promote physical activity among women in urban areas. Through these, they also held free workshops on health, aging, and pregnancy.     

Enrichment and Fulfillment

The urban public space affects the experience of the world and gives women empowerment if the spaces are designed by taking them into consideration. The social and infrastructural environment matters to attain enrichment and fulfillment in living in a city. 

Strategy – Design cities to maximize proximity to opportunities 

For example – Paris has implemented the concept of 15-minute cities where the key necessities of one’s daily routines are accessible within 15 minutes of walking or cycling. This also ensures accessibility not only for women but for everyone. 

It’s time that half of the population enjoys the joy and opportunities a city has to offer to its population. Taking women’s needs into account is of utmost importance to make urban public spaces safe for everyone. As the report rightly says,  

‘Designing cities that work for women will make cities safer, healthier, more vibrant, and more pleasant to live in for everybody’. 

You can read the full report here!

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