March 8, 2022, was International Women’s Day (IWD), and people across the world took to the streets to advocate for gender equality and women’s rights. The theme of this year’s IWD, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” acknowledges that the wellbeing of women and girls everywhere is directly linked to the wellbeing of our planet. As a statement from UN Women explains, “Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of the climate crisis as it amplifies existing gender inequalities and puts women’s lives and livelihoods at risk. Across the world, women depend more on, yet have less access to, natural resources, and often bear a disproportionate responsibility for securing food, water, and fuel.”
Advocates in many Global Future Cities Programme cities organised demonstrations or took political action in connection with IWD. On March 6, hundreds of women gathered on Ankara’s Sakarya Street and in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district to march in protest against widespread femicide in Turkey. Thousands participated in “reclaim the night” walks through these and other urban spaces.
Women’s rights groups in Bangkok, Thailand, filed proposals urging their government to enact reforms that will protect women, such as fully paid maternity leave and the construction of shelters for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
And leaders in Lagos, Nigeria, made comments in support of gender inclusion. Oluremi Tinubu, a senator representing Lagos Central, commended all efforts “to improve the lot of women,” writing that she was “especially proud of everyone who in spite of opposition, continues to speak up for us and the causes that affect our gender.” The politician Adjeoke Orelope-Adefulire connected female political participation with improved sustainability outcomes: “Greater involvement of women in decision-making will enhance the goals of equality, development peace, advancement of Nigeria’s democracy and even acceleration of achievement of Sustainable Development Goals,” she said in a statement.
Orelope-Adefulire’s message captures a central component of the Global Future Cities Programme (GFCP): Improving cities and advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in urban contexts requires female involvement and social inclusion across all planning stages. Whether in the public transport system of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, or a neighborhood renewal plan in Surabaya, Indonesia, GFCP projects have put into practice the idea that a city’s environmental resilience and economic prosperity rest on its social inclusion.
The GFCP is committed to helping urban partners achieve SDGs and improve their cities through gender equality. The programme seeks to apply the words of UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif: “Gender equality and women’s empowerment cannot be attained in unsafe cities; while inclusive and safe cities cannot be realised without gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
Over the next few months, the GFCP will publish articles in a series called “Women & Urban Sustainability” to highlight how women and gender inclusivity improve cities for all.
For more on gender-inclusive urban development strategies, read Mateus Lira’s detailed assessment of the social progress GFCP partners have made through participatory planning, the engagement of priority groups, and the application of the SDG Project Assessment Tool. To learn about how urban planning can be strengthened through Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI), check out Mirjam van Donk’s primer.