Cities have been the birthplace of societal progress throughout history. But their capacity to bring about change has been particularly striking in most recent years. From pro-democracy protests such as the Arab Spring to activist movements such as Black Lives Matter, cities have become a vital place for citizens to mobilize, confront power and catalyze a shift in the collective consciousness of society.
Today, there is one issue that unconditionally requires leadership from cities and a strong commitment from urban citizens: advancing progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. And that is for two reasons.
Following last year’s wave of sexual misconduct allegations, there is an unprecedented global momentum to empower women and address the gender gap. Cities must join this global movement and ensure that all urban policies – street safety, public transportation and civic participation among others – integrate a gender-based analysis. There has never been a more auspicious time for local governments to build gender inclusive communities.
Secondly, cities have become essential in solving some of the world’s most pressing issues. Urban leaders often outpace their national counterparts when it comes to adopting solutions that actually work. The most apparent example of this is the mobilization of city leaders in the fight against climate change. Due to their size and proximity to citizens, cities can advance more quickly on answering societal challenges compared to national governments.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day (IWD), we have invited 11 female leaders from all around the world to comment on how cities can be catalysts for gender progress. From Montreal to Bethlehem, these leaders are female Mayors, architects and urban thinkers. We are delighted to have these articles contribute to the conversation millions of women and men will be having on March 8 around this year’s official IWD theme #PressforProgress.
While these commentaries feature different sectoral and geographical perspectives, one reflection unites them all: collective action from all branches of society, government and business is necessary to protect and promote women’s rights.
Cities will be the first to witness the gender revolution that is under way and that will transform our social institutions, behaviours and relations. Local governments therefore have a tremendous opportunity to steer the gender conversation and pioneer the paradigm shift that can make cities – and the world – a better place for all.