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For the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than rural areas. Each month, 5 million people move to cities in developing countries. 

As a result, girls in cities contend with increased risks and opportunities. On one hand, girls face sexual harassment, exploitation, and insecurity. On the other, they are more likely to be educated, politically active and less likely to be married early.

Join the movement for girls' rights If girls who live in cities are to reach their potential, they must be free from discrimination and violence, and have access to equal opportunities.

Focus on adolescent girls' safety

Our research shows that adolescent girls seldom feel safe in cities. They experience physical and sexual violence, and are often excluded from decision-making processes that impact their safety.

In Delhi, India, 96% of adolescent girls said they did not feel safe in the city while 45% of girls in Kampala, Uganda, reported sexual harassment when using public transport.

In Delhi, 96% of adolescent girls said they did not feel safe

Because I am a Girl’s Urban Programme, developed together with partner organisations UN-HABITAT and Women in Cities International, directly tackles this issue. 

It is implemented in 5 cities around the world (Cairo, Egypt; Delhi, India; Hanoi, Vietnam; Kampala, Uganda and Lima, Peru). It brings partners and local communities together to transform cities into places of inclusion, tolerance, and opportunity where girls can thrive. 

Girls taking part in a safe city walk exercise in Cairo slums
Girls taking part in a safe city walk exercise in Cairo slums

Strengthening girls' voices for safe cities

In addition, the programme provides girls with a platform to discuss the issues they are facing and the opportunity to provide input into the development of the cities in which they live. Adolescent girls are often underrepresented in current safe city policies and are excluded from urban development and governance processes. It is fundamentally important to strengthen their voices in order to build safe cities that are inclusive and respond to their needs so they have the opportunity to thrive.

Aminah, 19, lives in Kampala, Uganda. Thanks to the Urban Programme she is able to take advantage of safe city playing fields to socialise with other girls. She also took part in a ‘girls’ safety walk’ to address concerns about the area in which she lives. She is particularly interested in working with decision-makers to ensure girls are able to participate in governance processes. She hopes to use these channels to improve sanitation practices in her locality. “Let’s encourage good sanitation. Bad sanitation is caused by litter and drainage problems,” she says.

Creating inclusive and safe cities for adolescent girls contributes to long-term economic, social, and institutional change within societies that will benefit all citizens. Safe cities are crucial to achieving gender equality because they will allow the girls who live in them to thrive.

Join the Because I am a Girl movement