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"I returned home around 10 pm. A group of men approached us out of nowhere. Before I realized, they caught hold of me..."

Sumi (17) from Bangladesh about her assault, when she returned home after work with three of her colleagues

Safe Cities for Women and Girls

A shocking one in three women will face violence in her lifetime. While cities can hold huge potential for the world’s poorest women and girls, the constant threat of violence is holding far too many back. That’s why ActionAid is taking action to make cities safer for women and girls, together with local community groups, women’s groups and with men, boys and governments, from Brazil to Liberia to the Netherlands.
  • 1 in 3

    women will face (sexual) violence or harassment in her life

  • 90%

    of the victims does not report to the police, feeling guilty or ashamed

  • every 15

    seconds a woman in São Paulo, Brazil is assaulted in public space

Why Safe Cities?

Currently around 54% of the world’s population is living in urban settings and this number is projected to grow to 66% by 2050. This rapid urbanization leads to an increase in women and girls’ visibility and mobility, but also vulnerability, in cities. Their increased independence is not being readily accepted in many countries. Their behaviour is sometimes considered to challenge traditional gender roles and is often associated with a Western influence that many men and members of the older generations disapprove with.

Because of the increased presence of women in the city, violence against women has become increasingly common and is one of the highest risks women face in public spaces. Sexual harassment including catcalling, unwanted sexual gestures, comments or requests for sexual relations and assault including rape occur on a daily basis, and are often dismissed and normalized by police, communities, local leaders and by women themselves. This is hindering women’s ability of living their lives fully as many feel forced to change their behaviour or avoid school or work due to fear of violence. Socio-cultural barriers for women urgently need to be tackled by government based structural changes for women to be able to fully enjoy public spaces.

ActionAid’s approach to women

ActionAid believes that women have the right to feel safe so that they can participate in society in the best possible way. In accordance with our Strategic Objective on women’s rights, we adopt a holistic rights-based approach to women and the city; we acknowledge and defend the women’s right to access public services, their right to live free from violence and harassment in public spaces, their right to move freely without fear, their right to report cases of assault and receive justice and finally, their right to enjoy all aspects of life as equal to men. ActionAid has been a key player in illustrating how public services could make cities safer for women.

Women empowerment in Kenya’s urban areas

Wangu Kanja is founder of the Wangu Kanja Foundation (partner of ActionAid) in Nairobi. In 2002 her car was stolen, and she became a victim of sexual violence under threat of a firearm. “I had to choose between life or death.” When she reported to the police, only the stolen car was registered, not her rape.

“I could no longer watch how so many women in Kenya become a victim of this and do not know their rights. My foundation provides drum therapy sessions, information on women’s rights, and provides business training to make women strong, positive and independent after a traumatic experience.”

Through ActionAid’s ‘She Can’ project women and girls in Kenya, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Zimbabwe are empowered to take collective action to challenge violence against women in public spaces and demand state accountability and action for gender responsive policies and public services.

ActionAid’s Safe Cities Campaign

The good news is that women around the world are already coming together, calling on governments, businesses, leaders and individuals to act now for safe cities for women. In ActionAid’s country programmes, women are demanding that their governments start making women’s safety a priority. We are campaigning against the patriarchal attitudes and inequality that promote this violence directed at women.

ActionAid’s Safe Cities for Women campaign is currently running in 19 countries and aims to hold governments to account to make streets, public places, work places, learning institutions and transportation safer, so that women and girls are able to share in the vast benefits of their cities. This can only happen if we demand that decision makers build women’s safety into the construction of cities, ensure public services meet the needs of women and girls, end sexual violence against women in cities and towns, and end impunity of sex attackers.

Empowering a citizens network in Brazil

Even though the local government of Recife, Brazil has made an effort to create positive spaces for their citizens, these have fallen short to address the problems families face every day, especially those living in the poorest regions of the city. ActionAid’s ‘Urban 95’ project aims to initiate a movement of concerned citizens who interact with their local government to transform their city and turn it into a caring and enabling environment offering places for recreation and relaxation that are safe for its residents, especially pregnant women, young children and youngsters.

Through research, capacity building, community empowerment, campaigning and community/government dialogue, we support the citizens of Recife to hold duty bearers to account in the provision of public services.The project aims to reach 8000 girls and women directly, but has a great impact on their families and other residents in Recife as well.

A few of our successes

  • Mobile app for security

    In Brazil, we developed an app for smartphones where women can mark unsafe places, so authorities know where improvement is needed.

  • Helpline against violence

    In Zimbabwe we set up a phone line together with the Zimbabwe Women Lawyer Association, so women in Harare can report violence and are able to receive legal assistance.

  • Radio show in Liberia

    In Liberia, our local partner organization Women Speak launched a talk show about women's rights. The show has become so popular that the broadcast time is now offered to them for free.

  • 100.000 residents

    in a favela in São Paulo, Brazil received free street lighting to increase security. This is a huge victory for the residents who campaigned for this with ActionAid's support.

  • Worldwide support

    In the UK, Australia and Ireland, over 70,000 people took action in support of our campaign, recruiting 30,000 new campaigning supporters to ActionAid.

  • Over 322,000 women

    in 29 countries throughout the federation were mobilised to challenge violence against women and girls.

Want to know more about Safe Cities?

Ester van den Berg is the philanthropy and partnerships officer and program officer at ActionAid Netherlands. She has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Her study background brought her to the Arab world, where she lived and worked for over seven years. Contact her for more information on Safe Cities.

Neem contact op met Ester




Pagina aangepast op 3 augustus 2018