5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Cities for girls and young women = cities for all

Girls & boys, women & men, designing and implementing policies for safe, accountable, inclusive, resilient and sustainable public spaces

High-level panel - Auditorium
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
11:30 to 13:00

The New Urban agenda and the SDGs provide an ambitious framework to deal with the challenges of urbanisation in the world. In particular, ensuring universal access to green and public space.

To build these inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities it is key to involve the most vulnerable groups in the population in the design of the urban public policies that have a direct impact on them.  Girls and young women are both among the vulnerable and excluded population, and at the same time a driver for development of cities and local communities.The session will seek to identify the elements of public policy that would be needed to ensure that both girls and boys, women and men of all ages can access and enjoy public space for social, economic or recreational uses.

Key points

  • Women and girls face unique challenges in public spaces and public transport in many cities.
  • Women are constantly excluded from economic activities.  Women have an enormous contribution to make. The city is an engine of growth and it must be planned in a gender-responsive manner.
  • More advocacy is needed for women at the local level. In Africa women represent 52 % of population and they are at the heart of development.
  • Men and leaders must be taught to understand the importance of women. Urban planners and architects are mostly males. They rarely think about issues like the disabled and the safety and mobility of women.


Cities will be sustainable only when women’s and girls’ perspectives are taken into account. Women are constantly excluded from economic activities. Women have an enormous contribution to make. Cities are the engine of growth. They must be planned in a gender-responsive manner.

Women face challenges in the public space and transport services in cities. For example, using public toilets is a dangerous experience for young girls in Kampala, Uganda, during the day; 95 % of girls feel unsafe in public premises. 

The reality of living in cities has to be taken into account when planning and designing cities. The Safer City programmes are working with girls to bring their stories to national and local authorities, so that relevant measures addressing safety issues can be taken.

The local leaders on the ground are the mayors. They need to do management by walking – seeing the city with those feeling insecurity every day. Then they will see what needs to fixed.  Inclusive cities have to be holistic, taking into account the physical, the economic, the social and the psychological.

In northern Europe, more women are engaged in local government than men. Some 1,700 cities are engaged with the gender equality charter and are following its commitments.

Efficiency in city management comes from the sharing of responsibilities and exchange of perspectives. Policy should take into account all social dimensions in the way cities are built and planned through parity in institutions and organisations.

More advocacy is needed for women at the local level. In Africa women make up 52 % of the population and they are at the heart of development, while only 6 % of mayors in the world are women. This shows the discrepancy in sustainable development.

Women at the decision-making level need to bring other women into the loop and United Cities and Local Governments Africa is one of the rare organisations to link women mayors together, contributing to address challenges related to Sustainable Development Goals.

Gender mainstreaming and youth will be reflected in UN Habitat’s new strategic plan 2025. There is a critical need for key actors to work in teams to design cities for all, and to give women a voice and investment.

Men and leaders must be educated to appreciate that women are important. Cities are not planned in a gender responsive manner. Cities were built by men for men. Urban planners and architects are mostly males. The last things they think about traditionally are issues like the disabled or the safety and mobility of women.

Women and men experience cities differently. Problems of safety and inclusiveness exist in all cities. If we plan a city for women we plan it for all. It is essential to build a policy conceived by all, involving a consultation process.

City planning will never be resilient without empowering women and girls from local communities. Urban problems will not be solved without women leadership, motivation and empathy leading to connection


Safety and security in cities are a crucial concern of women and young girls. This restricts their movement and employment opportunities.

Organised by


Vince Chadwick
Brussels Correpondent
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen
Plan International
Maimunah Mohd Sharif
Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director
United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)
Frederic Vallier
Council of European Municipalities and Regions
Célestine Ketcha Epse Courtès
Mayor of Bangangté
United Cities and Local Governments
Lais Rocha Leao
Young Leader - Brazil