Reinforce Cities Leadership and Urban Design for Safer Public Spaces

Maria Isabelle Wieser • 15 May 2020
Worldwide, the urban population is growing and the role of mayors and city councilors is increasing. This means that cities and their design can play a key role in a feminist foreign policy agenda.

Around 55% of the world population lives in cities today and according to the UN, 68% of the world population is to live in cities by 2050. The role of mayors and city councilors is increasing. This brings a new proximity of problem-solving since city leaders are closer to their population then national leaders. Moreover, progressive city leaders have been stepping up in areas where national leaders have had a more conservative agenda. They have put women in charge in their local governments and included them in their policy planning and problem solving, in countries where women remain a great minority.

While the population is moving from the countryside into cities, city life can mean additional challenges for women:

Economic & Social issues:
The prices in cities are considerably higher than on the country-side. This is especially challenging for rent costs and public transportation. Women in particular travel more with public transportation then men and they are usually also the ones juggling family-care and work and therefore need to be able to more from one point in the city to the other. Expensive child care is an additional challenge for women's economic situation.

Health-related challenges include poor air quality as well as access to good and affordable health care.

Safety and security challenges:
Safety and security challenges are especially complex in the context of urban living. On one hand, women perceive the public space as more dangerous than men. This is partially because of a real threat (street harassment, sexual assaults etc.), partly because women have traditionally been put in relation with the private sphere of the family and public space has belonged to men. Even though women face a considerable greater risk of domestic abuse than street assault, the public space is still considered as dangerous for women by both genders.
Oder security aspects include the lack of secure pedestrian and bicycle path (women are usually moving by foot public transport, while men prefer the car) or the above mentioned health issues.
Targeting cities and urban planning in the frame of a feminist foreign policy agenda does not only support progressiv local leaders and local initiatives, but most of all create a safe and prosperous public space for all citizen.