Creating Inclusive Cities with Gender Policies

The integration of gender policies is needed to see equality in opportunities, resources, ownership and in the decision-making process. However, integration of gender policies is mostly needed to see inclusive cities and communities emerge. Gender sensitive policies do not only benefit women: they create transformational potential across the board where perceptions, practices and values are developed to serve cities’ wellbeing. The integration of gender policies enhances the role of women as powerful co-creators of just, inclusive, creative and equitable cities.

The New Urban Agenda was adopted in 2016 in Quito as a new global strategy on how to plan, build and manage sustainable cities. The right to the city was introduced as a term, principle, and long-term strategy to ensure that cities are inclusive, supportive and sustainable. By themselves, inclusive and supportive cities become places to fight gender inequality since they depend on new relational and institutional realities. However, we need to be intrepid in addressing structures of inequality that continue to bar women from many spheres of society such as access to basic services, security and non-violence, access to land and property ownership as well as vital participation in the decision-making process. Only by actively tackling structural inequalities will the empowerment of women be possible and will cities be inclusive and supportive.

One of the key challenges for inclusive and supportive cities will be to foster renewed partnerships between civil society and local governments to encourage women to stand for elected office. As an adamant believer in women’s leadership capacities and rights, I have steadily trusted the fact that “a better democracy,” as Michelle Bachelet points out, “is a democracy where women do not have the right to vote and to elect, but to be elected.” Women must have the right to participate in political processes that affect them, their families and their societies.

Many local leaders advocate today for the “feminization of politics” with the goal of bringing different priorities to the forefront. The increased participation of women in political, economic and public life through the integration and implementation of gender policies ensures inclusive, creative and supportive cities. Strengthening women’s rights and addressing barriers to political participation, including the absence of social and political party support, lack of financial means, lack of confidence or lack of experience, are critical to achieving gender equality and female empowerment to enhance inclusive cities.

Cities have bigger economic opportunities and we see an increased cooperation across party lines. In this context, it is important to have both quantity and quality when it comes to women in governance to create the responsive and responsible leadership we need in a changing world. However, it is critical to note that the integration and implementation of gender policies and addressing structural inequalities is a challenge to the communities and cities that experience conflict or war. Gender parity and integration of gender policies unfortunately become a minor issue for these communities. In fact, from exclusive slums to refugee camps, we see the exact opposite to inclusive cities. The right to life and existence replace the right to gender equality and justice.

Therefore, when there is absence of peace and security in a community, there is a challenge to create inclusive and supportive cities. That is why countries with high rates of female participation and leadership – in civil society and political parties – tend to be more inclusive, responsive and democratic. When women meaningfully participate in peace processes and conflict resolution, they can help expand the scope of peace agreements and therefore improve prospects of durable peace for their communities, cities and nations.