Cities that work for women

We’ve already written about cities for children. Now, following a similar line of thought, architecture firm Arup have release a new report, Cities Alive: Designing Cities that work for women. The basic argument for both is roughly the same: cities are designed for white men going to work. That’s a great oversimplification on my part but broadly correct as a center point to multiple issue. If we design cities for a broader range of people, more of them will be comfortable, be able to safely do a greater number of things within cities, and everyone will benefit.

The link above goes to an article introducing the report, what follows is based on the executive summary of the report itself.

Visit almost any city in the world and the challenges are evident: inadequate lighting which leaves women feeling vulnerable when walking at night; poorly-designed public spaces that do not take into account the needs of the whole community; and mass transit systems, where the threat of assault or harassment can be a deterrent to use, and the focus seems to be on serving commuters more than caregivers.

These challenges are doing a great disservice to women of all ages and backgrounds. The way cities are planned, built and managed can significantly restrict women’s ability to move around, to be economically active or, simply, to enjoy the spaces they live in. This can impact quality of life and wellbeing and limit the role that women can play in creating and sustaining successful and productive places.

Just as cities can materialize inequalities and political decisions, they can also be used to catalyse change. The report provides a wide range of strategies, backed up by case studies, to make cities more inclusive of and welcoming to women. It is arranged around four themes; safety and security; justice and equity; health and wellbeing; enrichment and fulfilment.

The only way to achieve truly inclusive cities is to incorporate the views, needs and requirements of different people – especially of the most vulnerable and excluded groups – at all stages. This is the core premise of this report, and the fundamental shift in mindset it seeks to inspire.

Produced in partnership with UNDP (the United Nations Development Programme) and the University of Liverpool, the report also addresses and aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and was created through surveys and “co-creation workshops with diverse groups of women from 20 countries across six continents.”