“You’re always hearing that people have been killed or raped or kidnapped. It makes me feel unsafe. I work late and I think one day maybe I’ll be a victim,” says Sharon, 19, from Kampala.
Like Sharon, the majority of girls and young women in cities do not feel safe. Research conducted by Plan International found only 4% of adolescent girls in Delhi always feel safe in public spaces and 91% of girls in Lima have experienced sexual harassment on public transport.
This has to change. As quickly as our cities are growing.
Making cities safe and inclusive
The world’s highest level decision-making body for sustainable urbanisation, the UN-Habitat Global Assembly meets this week to make decisions and pass resolutions on making cities safe and inclusive for all.
The UN-Habitat Assembly will bring together 193 member states from 27-31 May 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya to adopt new guidelines on safety in public spaces.
Plan International, through its global partnership with UN-Habitat, provided extensive technical input into the development of the guidelines based on adolescent girls’ recommendations from the 13 cities in which we work.
New standards for urban safety
The guidelines will provide governments with a standard in responding to the challenges of urban safety and security in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda. They also set a new standard for girls’ safety and civic participation through provisions that acknowledge the gender and inclusion issues in urban environments.
Key advocacy wins in the language and provisions of the guidelines are the acknowledgement that both actual and perceived safety must be addressed; that gender-based violence and harassment are key safety concerns; and that cities must be made both safe and inclusive for young people.
Young people take centre stage
One of the global advocacy asks of Plan International's Safer Cities for Girls programme is the recognition of the power of girls and young women to influence the decisions that affect them - their right to be consulted and taken seriously, collectively and individually.
The guidelines boldly identify children and youth as agents of change, citing them as playing a key role in the development, implementation and co-production of safety and security in cities and human settlements.
In keeping with the spirit of youth led-advocacy, young people will occupy centre stage at the UN-Habitat assembly this year. They will discuss, on equal footing, with representatives of key institutions working on urban safety how to bring the UN guidelines to life in ways that meaningfully improve their lives.
When girls take the lead amazing things can happen
Through the Safer Cities for Girls programme, Plan International will continue to create time and space for young people to showcase innovative solutions to urban safety concerns for adoption by local governments.
Sharon is a shining example of girls and young women's power when they're able to step up, influence decisions and take the lead.
“My life has been transformed... I am now confident, assertive, gender aware. I know my rights, I have good communication and leadership skills and I can lead… I’m no longer afraid to do anything.”