Tools for Gathering Information about Women’s Safety and Inclusion in Cities

Why is this toolkit important?

Across the globe, cities have the potential to provide valuable political, educational, healthcare, employment, cultural and recreational opportunities. All urban citizens have an equal right to access the opportunities that cities provide, including women and girls. Women and girls, like other citizens, must feel safe, comfortable and legitimate participating in urban life so that they are able to assert their right to the city.

In order to achieve this, cities should be planned and managed in a way that responds to the distinctive needs of women and girls. It is equally important that the services women and girls use are tailored to address their concerns, and that community members take an active role in creating a secure and supportive social environment for all citizens.

Social understandings about gender and what is “safe” or “appropriate” for men and for women often shape people’s behaviour. As a result, women and girls experience urban environments differently than men and boys. Of particular concern is gender-based violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls - at least one out of every three women will experience physical abuse, forced sex, or another type of abuse within her lifetime.

As a result of the prevalence of gender-based violence, experiences and fear of violence restrict how women and girls are able to live their everyday lives. The issue of women’s safety in public spaces exemplifies this point. Many women and girls do not feel free to go out alone in public space or use public transportation (especially after dark) because they fear being attacked or harassed. Moreover, many women and girls do not feel safe or legitimate using public spaces because of socio-cultural beliefs about women belonging only in the home and other private spaces.

In order to understand how to create, plan and manage urban environments so that they are safe and inclusive for women and girls, the experiences of women and girls in cities must be understood by decision-makers and the general public. Any person planning, managing or governing cities should have accurate information about women’s and girls’ experiences and how they are able to use (or not use) public space. The best way to understand how women and girls experience the city is to consult women and girls themselves and make them an integral part of urban decision-making processes.

The toolkit provides guidance and tools for the collection of information on women’s safety and inclusion in cities from women and other stakeholders, so that urban decision-makers and the general public alike can understand how to create environments where women and men can equally access their right to the city.