Why Gender Matters for Cities?

URBACT

By URBACT, on March 8th, 2011

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The 8th of March is the international women’s day. This should certainly not be the only moment to think about it, but it is the occasion to recall the unbalanced situation between women and men in most areas of life. The city embodies these unbalances; which means policies and actions at the local level can also stimulate and lever for change.

Gender perspectives on urban planning have been developing in the last decades, and this gender reading of space and space organisation has impacts in all areas of integrated urban development. For instance UN Millennium goals underline the necessity for all governments to take into account gender considerations development and infrastructure projects (UN 2007).

Indeed, if ‘developing a gender perspective’ can appear a very theoretical objective, thinking about the city differently only requires raising very simple questions. Interrogations such as ‘how to make a city safe for women?  Useable for people with young children and pushchairs? How to adapt to complex travel patterns of women?’ have an impact on the way one think the organisation of public space and public transportation. This is also the case in terms of local governance (women have different roles as men in society and diverse agendas so they are not likely to be involved in the same way in local governance systems), or economic development.

On the web, quite a lot of information is available on the issue. For instance, the Women design service, an organisation based in London, has developed a whole database on gender and the build environment reminding the main characteristics of women in the city and how to adapt and think with their life patterns.

But more concretely, URBACT projects also work on the best ways to build a gender balanced and inclusive city, either directly as it is the case of WEED ‘Women, Enterprise and Employment in Local development’, or when considering all aspects of active inclusion and human capital and entrepreneurship like in the ESIMEC project (Economic Strategies and Innovation in Medium Sized Cities).

These projects have developed and considered successful case studies in the area of economic integration of women. You’ll find a few examples below extracted from Gill’ Scott analysis.  These are just a reminder on how much thinking about gender equality and in a gender perspective can bring to the whole society!

Using micro finance to support cities entrepreneurship: Celje, Slovenia

The WEED partners have shown that making micro finance more gender-sensitive can be done effectively and with long-term positive effect on business sustainability. In Celje, Slovenia, it has been found that investing in a strong integrated system of support for women entrepreneurs, including micro finance and longer term mentoring, has a positive impact for start up and business growth.

Social Enterprise, a successful way to boost jobs and improve services: the PAN project in Italy

The implementation of the PAN project shows the potential of integration of women in the labour market through the development of social enterprise. PAN is a consortium of social enterprises which offers start-up assistance to organisations interested in establishing new types of services for children in the form of social enterprises. Between 2004 – 2008, PAN successfully built 140 new infant schools with 4,311 available places and 943 new jobs, largely for women.

Supporting Women entrepreneurship

Despite the fact that a majority of female Students in Santiago de Compostela have received their education in the area of Technological and Experimental Science, the skills of female graduate are seldom transferred into entrepreneurial initiative. The Woman Emprende Programme, based in the University, receives municipal support to offer new solutions to these problems. Considering women face barriers such as a poor access to technology and support, and difficulties to balance work and family, the programme supports entrepreneurial ventures that take into consideration the specific characteristics of women. It offers a variety of support like knowledge updating, access to University technology, development of support structure for working mothers.

Ségolène Pruvot

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