WomenStrong International, a global consortium of non-profit organizations focused on women-led solutions to extreme urban poverty, launched the #CitiesForWomen campaign on International Women’s Day to highlight the need for urban planning and infrastructure sensitive to the specific needs of women and girls.
During Women’s History Month in March, WomenStrong will focus on how cities can be made safer for women, through more and better street lighting, better surveillance of public transport, and sex-segregated public bathrooms. Women and girls from WomenStrong sites in Ghana, Kenya, India, and Haiti will share some of their pioneering efforts to increase safety for urban women and girls.
“Through this campaign, we are calling on non-profits, multilateral organizations, and public officials to do what it takes to create safer cities where women and girls can lead healthy, prosperous, and fulfilling lives, in dignity and peace,” said Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Founder and Executive Director of WomenStrong International.
#CitiesForWomen builds on movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, and France’s #BalanceTonPorc, which have called attention to the widespread problem of harassment, abuse, and violence against women in the workplace and in their daily lives. With this campaign, WomenStrong calls attention to the millions of girls and women who face daily violence as they navigate the city on their way to school or work, the clinic or market, and home again. Indeed, violence against women is cemented in urban infrastructure.
WomenStrong believes it is high time for city leaders and planners to rethink urban infrastructure design to make public spaces safe and accessible for women and girls. Cities’ physical safety becomes even more important with each passing year, with more than 60 percent of the world’s population expected to reside in urban areas by 2030.
As part of the campaign, WomenStrong International will feature the stories of women who lead programs at WomenStrong’s sites aimed at reducing or redressing harassment, abuse, and rape. They’ll share their expertise and views as those laboring each day to safeguard women’s freedom from all forms of violence. Realizing this right – to live free of violence — is key to enabling women and girls to emerge from extreme urban poverty and achieve gender equality, a Sustainable Development Goal.
According to the World Bank-led partnership Sustainable Mobility for All, 53 percent of women in developed countries feel “unsafe'” or “very unsafe” while waiting on a railway platform after dark.
“From East Harlem to East Jerusalem, cities pose special danger for women and girls,” Dr. Blaustein said. “Time’s up, waiting for change: it’s up to us now, to women worldwide, to make that change happen.”