Girls are increasingly moving to cities for work, education and opportunities. It is estimated that by 2030, approximately 700 million girls will live in urban areas.*
This shift can increase their chances of marrying later and having fewer and healthier children but it also presents risks and challenges. Cities can be some of the most dangerous places for girls to live.
Girls have a right to feel safe and be safe where they live and learn. So we listened to girls’ concerns and experiences and created an 8 point action plan for safety in cities.
1. All girls should have the right to access safe education in the city
Many girls told us their route to school makes them vulnerable to danger.
Here’s how they’ve been learning to speak out about safety in and getting to school.
2. All girls should have the right to be free from violence in the city
Girls should not have to fear violence and harassment in the cities they live. However, in many large cities, such abuse is a daily reality.
Should the worst happen, we’re helping girls learn how to defend themselves. We’ve been working with the Delhi Police Force to provide self-defence classes for girls aged 13 - 25 to help them protect themselves in dangerous situations.
3. All girls should have the right to secure and decent housing
Seventeen-year-old Lizeth lives in a ramshackle collection of over 120 settlement homes clinging to a rocky hillside north of Lima. On average, five people share one or two rooms, none of which have running water.
“Girls and parents are on guard all the time for the dangers that surround us here... At night, girls stay home as the risk of kidnapping for trafficking is very real,” says Lizeth.
“The threat of violence is quite common for all here, but the risks are far greater for me mainly because I am a girl,” she says.
Lizeth has taken part in a safer cities initiative to map dangers for girls in Lima in order to identify problems and help generate solutions.
4. All girls should have the right to move safely in the city
Cities such as Vietnam’s capital Hanoi provide girls with more opportunities than rural areas. However, they also put girls at a higher risk of harassment and abuse.
We’re working with adolescent girls, bus drivers and ticket inspectors to make buses safe in Hanoi so girls can travel through the city safely.
5. All girls should have the right to affordable and accessible services in the city
Girls should be able to access vital services in the city and not be restricted by potential safety issues.
That’s why in collaboration with Ericsson, Plan India have established 12 Digital Learning Centres in some of Delhi’s most marginalised communities.
The project provides ICT access to more than 15,000 girls and young women aged 15-25, making skills development affordable and available to them in a safe environment.
6. All girls should have the right to age-appropriate and decent work in a healthy urban environment
Only 9% of the 35 million young women aged 15-24 in India’s urban areas are in formal jobs.
An innovative training programme is helping thousands of young women from Delhi’s slums to get good jobs and break down preconceptions of what women can do.
Through the Saksham programme – meaning empowered in Hindi – Plan India is giving girls new opportunities. By changing attitudes towards girls in the slums, combined with skills training, the programme helps them to find safe work and escape poverty.
7. All girls should have the right to safe spaces in the city
In the Ugandan capital city Kampala, girls’ safety is at risk every day. After her friend's death, Faridah became the leader of a group of young people bravely working to make the city a place where girls no longer feel at risk.
"Together, we go through what is problematic and look for solutions in the neighbourhood. In the alley where my friend was attacked, there is now light."
Faridah and the other group members help girls increase their self-confidence and develop assertiveness skills.
"We also now complain to the police when we are abused."
8. All girls should have the right to participate in making cities safer, more inclusive and more accessible
Computer gaming technology is enabling a group of girls in Vietnam, to help make their urban community a safer space.
Girls are visualising safer communities using software provided by Mojang, the company behind the popular game, Minecraft.
The creative designs of the girls included simple, yet crucial, aspects of a safe environment, such as installing street lights, road signs, bins and fences in their community.
Creating safer cities with and for girls
In five cities - Cairo, Delhi, Hanoi, Lima and Kampala - where girls often feel at risk, Plan International is bringing together communities to transform neighbourhoods into safe places where girls are respected and can go to school or work without fear of violence.
The initiative strives to increase safety and access to public spaces for women and girls; their independent and unrestricted use of public transport and meaningful participation in urban governance, planning and management.