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Girls raise voices to make Egypt's cities safer

Girls like Mariam from Egypt, are influencing the future of their cities so they become safe places where girls can make the most of the opportunities they provide.

Mariam, 13, is calling for cities to be made safer for girls
Mariam, 13, is calling for cities to be made safer for girls.

In Egypt, girls in cities are exposed to a lot of dangers. In Cairo, 25% of girls we spoke to said they never feel safe when walking in public spaces.

However, cities also provide girls with greater opportunities to get an education and good jobs. Our Urban Programme, run in partnership with Women in Cities International and UN-Habitat, is addressing the risks so girls are able to take advantage of the opportunities that cities provide.

Girls’ voices critical for safe cities

One of the key components of the Urban Programme is including girls in the running and planning of cities so their specific needs are met.

Mariam, 13, participates in the Urban Programme in Cairo. “I used to underestimate my skills,” she says. “I always believed that my opinion didn’t count, so it is not important to say what I think.”

I want to show how, by investing in girls, everyone benefits

Mariam’s experiences mirror those of many other girls in Cairo as 32% say they can never talk to anyone about their safety concerns. However, through the programme, Mariam is learning to express herself and has met with government officials to discuss girls’ safety in Cairo. 

She says, “They listened to what I had to say. They promised to act on the things that we highlighted and take into consideration our recommendations. I feel proud of this, as no member of my family has ever had the opportunity to influence the government.”

Identifying risks

Before meeting the government officials, Mariam took part in a safety walk around Cairo to identify factors that make girls feel unsafe and the potential risks that threaten them.

Mariam leading a group discussion on safety in cities
Mariam's self-confidence has grown since participating in Plan International's Urban Programme.

“Lack of street lighting, wild dogs and piles of garbage can be a threat to my safety. By discussing these issues with other girls, I understood how they pose a serious risk to us,” says Mariam.

“But just identifying the issues wasn’t our ultimate goal. Our aim is to design initiatives that will help us address these issues.”

Mariam is attending the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women to highlight the importance of safe cities in achieving girls’ and women’s economic empowerment.

She says, “I want to show how, by investing in girls, everyone benefits. I will be the voice for all girls in my country. I believe girls who live in similar circumstances will be inspired by what I do and they too will strive for change.”

Learn more about our work to make cities safer for girls