Each month, 5 million people are added to the cities of the developing world and it is estimated that by 2030, approximately 700 million girls will live in urban areas.* Cities are often dangerous places for girls, but we believe this can change if we listen to their needs.
During the World Urban Forum (WUF9), which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 7-13 February 2018, Plan International’s slogan was Cities for Girls = Cities for All.* If we make cities safe for the most vulnerable and excluded group, they can be safer places for all.
The Forum takes place every two years and brings together tens of thousands of actors from around the world to discuss challenges facing the world today. Plan International’s youth delegates Lan and Linh, 16-year-old girls from Hanoi, Vietnam, were especially invested in the message. They joined us to share issues and concerns that girls in Hanoi face every day and gave recommendations for making cities safer and more inclusive for girls.
One of Plan International’s key objectives for WUF9 was to provide a platform for youth-led advocacy and influencing with global, regional, national, and local level policy makers.
Lan and Linh are part of Plan International’s global Safer Cities for Girls programme, developed jointly between Plan International, UN-HABITAT and Women in Cities International (WICI) to build safe, accountable and inclusive cities with and for adolescent girls.
Safe for girls means safe for all
Safer Cities for Girls is a gender-transformative programme, working to tackle unequal power relations and challenge harmful social norms that perpetuate insecurity and exclusion of girls in cities. The programme works across three levels of change:
- With governments and institutions to influence municipal and national actors and policymakers to make laws and city services more receptive and inclusive to girls’ safety.
- With families and communities to promote a supportive social environment that promotes girls’ safety and inclusion in cities.
- With girls and boys themselves to engage them to be active citizens and agents of change by building capacities, strengthening assets, and creating opportunities for meaningful participation.
Girls take the lead
Lan, Linh and the Plan International delegation shared their experiences, best practices and recommendations for implementing the New Urban Agenda and the Global Goals especially Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and Goal 5: Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls, across various platforms at WUF9.
During a Hard Talk at the Children’s Assembly, Linh said “safe for girls means safe for all” and shared ideas for making public spaces in Hanoi more safe and inclusive for girls, including on public transportation, and why it is important for everyone to contribute to making public spaces in cities safer.
Plan International organised several events throughout the week, including a curriculum-based workshop to change knowledge, attitudes, practices and skills of urban actors and a thematic working group session on how to strengthen women’s and girls’ rights to the city during the Women’s Assembly.
We organised a networking event, together with UN-HABITAT and WICI that provided a space for panellists to share recommendations for implementing the New Urban Agenda, by emphasizing the importance of developing multi-level, multi-stakeholder, and multi-sectoral partnerships with a variety of urban actors in order to confront the discriminatory and harmful social norms that limit girls’ safety and inclusion in cities.*
The Girls’ Safety Walk allows girls to assess elements of the built and social environment that they feel contribute to or hinder their sense of safety.
Panellists included the two girls from Hanoi, Ms. Lan Le Quynh, Programme Unit Manager of Hanoi at Plan International Vietnam and Ms. Thi Bich Loan Tran, Vice Chair of the Gender Bureau, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs in Vietnam.
Ms. Loan shared her experience working in partnership with Plan International and adolescent girls in support of the Safer Cities for Girls programme, including institutionalising the programme’s curricula for girls, boys, government stakeholders and transportation staff in seven cities across Vietnam. She described the programme as a meaningful initiative in addressing gender-based violence against girls and shared her desire to replicate this model to other provinces and cities across Vietnam.
In addition, we organised an exciting side event about the use of innovative and participatory tools to increase girls’ safety and inclusion in cities. These tools include the Girls’ Safety Walk, which allows girls to assess elements of the built and social environment that they feel contribute to or hinder their sense of safety. Girls then identify priority issues they would like to see addressed and offer recommendations for making their communities safer and more inclusive.
Safer cities for girls
It was an incredibly successful week that saw some big achievements. We received several pledges from high-level stakeholders to make cities safe and inclusive for girls, including from Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the new Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, from Ms. Zoleka Mandela, granddaughter of late Nelson Mandela and the global ambassador for the Child Health Initiative, as well as from several government partners.
Yet our work is not done. We will continue to work with partners at all levels to ensure Global Goals 5 and 11 are achieved and promote the importance of ensuring a gender-sensitive, child-friendly, and child and youth participation implementation approach to the New Urban Agenda and the Global Goals, especially the Action Framework for Implementation of the New Urban Agenda (AFINUA).*
We look forward to actively participating in the WUF10 in 2020 and continuing this exciting work.
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