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Gender Equal Cities

01 March 2018

On International Women’s Day, URBACT is proud to launch Gender Equal Cities- a new initiative to highlight ways in which cities are driving change through gender sensitive policy making. Gender Equal Cities will also dig deeper to understand the barriers that still hold back progress and make recommendations for more equitable urban planning and governance.

Why now?

Closing the gender gaps

2018 feels like a pivotal moment as the voices of many women and girls are raised in the #MeToo and #Times Up campaigns. It is a reminder that whilst so much has been achieved there still a long way to go to achieve equality in political and economic participation.

  • In the European Union, 32% of regional assembly members and 36% of municipal council members are women and only 15% of mayors are women.
  • The Gender Pay Gap persists. Women in Europe earn on average around 17% less than men.
  • In the past urban planning has been a male dominated field and there is now a re-thinking of planning and public space to become more gender sensitive
  • Women are often disproportionately adversely affected by austerity measures, demographic shifts and migration.

Closing these gender gaps is an imperative that brings benefits for all. Gender equality is not only a democratic principle and a human right, enshrined in the EU Treaties; it is also a fundamental requirement for the equal sharing of power and justice and for the well-being of communities. Equality of women and men - in practice - is an essential component for economic growth and prosperity. We know, for instance, that bridging the gender pay gap would significantly increase GDP globally. United Nations research shows that when there are more women involved in public service delivery within public administrations there is better financial inclusion; improved education delivery; higher sanitation levels and enhanced healthcare.

Implementing the New Urban Agendas

The United Nations 2030 Global Agenda puts women’s empowerment at the heart of achieving all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)and, in particular SDG 5, which is dedicated to gender equality. The SDGs are universal and binding; governments all over the world must ensure that they are reached. Gender equality is also one of the cross cutting themes to be taken into account by all the Urban Agenda for the EU thematic partnerships. These new Urban Agendas and localising the SDGs offer a unique opportunity to recognize the centrality of gender in urban policy and practice. Involving women more in decision-making and co-production can challenge the wider structural power dynamics that perpetuate gender inequality.

URBACT Knowledge hub

As a knowledge hub promoting sustainable urban development URBACT will now add further inspiration and spur the debate on what can be done to achieve gender equality and work towards achievement of SDG5 by 2030. Cities are the level of government closest to the citizen, and although many areas of policy related to gender are beyond their competence, there is still plenty that cities can and should do, for instance in governance, representation, economic development, service delivery, mobility, public space, and migrant integration.

URBACT cities have Good Practices such as the gender mainstreaming tool in Umea, Sweden, which has been offering a guided bus tour for almost ten years to show how the urban landscape is gendered and encourage ideas for improvement. Other URBACT networks have explored gender dimensions such as improving rates of female entrepreneurship in TechTown and inspiring the next generation through girls coding clubs in Gen Y City.

To add to these examples throughout the coming year we are going to be listening to cities, to the women and men that run them and live in them to gather evidence on the best ways to accelerate the pace of change. Working closely with the Council for European Municipalities and Regions, whose European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life was founded in 2006 and has 1600 signatories, we will be learning from the best cities and actions plan in their Observatory.

URBACT will contribute to the European Placemaking Conference in Stockholm in April and the CEMR Conference on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Bilbao in June. We will look at research, good examples, and talk to city leaders in order to present back to the URBACT community practical ideas for making a difference in gender equality at city level.

The URBACT programme itself will look at how well it ‘walks the talk’. We know that women are well represented – often more than 50% of participants, in our networks and events. But we will look at where and how the Programme can improve its performance on gender equality, for instance in the expertise it uses and in presentations at events.

Equality for all

As a central principle we will highlight the different perspectives of citizens of all ages, ethnicities, faiths, sexuality and backgrounds, and be conscious of the narratives of those affected by multiple forms of discrimination. For instance we will look at the experiences of migrant women and children, the young and the elderly, those with disabilities, women of colour, to see how the city, its design and services can better meet their needs and aspirations. We need to include all interests when looking at experiences of the city and therefore also those of LGBTIQ groups.

It is clear that gender equality is not just about women. Gender inequality doesn't only hold women back, it holds us all back. We need men to get involved, to raise awareness, to understand why this is important and how to support women and girls, and we will showcase examples of this in action.

On International Women’s Day 2019 we will report back with the new knowledge created and practical steps that every city and urban professional can take to address gender inequality.

Tell us your stories

We want to hear from cities and urban change makers across Europe:

  • What do you do to improve gender equality across key themes and city competencies in urban development, eg in mobility, planning, representation?
  • What actions have you implemented to reduce gender based inequality?
  • What impact have they had?
  • How have you guaranteed a gender filter on urban policy?

URBACT aims to spur the debate on what can be done right now to achieve gender equality.

Join the conversation #GenderEqualCities and #PressforProgress


Post your ideas and examples on Gender Equal Cities LinkedIn Group by 15 May 2018 & join our launch webinar on IWD 8 March at 15:00 CET, register here!

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