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21 March 2021

Session covered: Creating Women Friendly Cities; Transforming Pandemic challenges into actions for SDGs and gender equality

Kim Ann Williamson, APD Peace

My first trip to CSW should have been in 2020. Once my flight tickets, hotels and UN pass were all booked, the excitement increased only to be quashed when the pandemic hit and the event was cancelled. Thereafter, we all talked about what the following years’ events would bring, and I could never have imagined that my first CSW experience would be online. I wasn’t disappointed.

In the safety of my own home I have had to learn quickly how to weave my way through all the fantastic, informative and truly empowering sessions. So many of the sessions I have wanted to listen into have often been at the same time, oh dear, what ones do I tick, what ones do I choose? With new ways of connecting us all together online, who would have thought the pressing of the record button on Zoom would become so powerful to enable the sharing of so many powerful stories and fantastic work after the events?

When I saw the heading Creating Women Friendly Cities, I felt the strong desire to join to learn more as the strong messages recently of the need for women and girls to feel safer on our streets across  the UK has never been stronger.

The session was very informative and Joy Masahura, Co Chair if Women Transforming Cities, set the scene beautifully by outlining that their mission is to transform cities into places that work for all people, by empowering self identified women and girls through all their diversity by strategies through community engagement, inclusive policies and equitable representation. Instead of cities being focused on public safety they call it women friendly – where women thrive and live full, safe and meaningful lives. They do this by adopting a range of 16 ‘Wise Practices’ that lead to an equitable and sustainable living environment. I have added the link to their website as their thought process and work is inspiring and gives us food for thought for our own cities and towns

Just one example, which was  outlined by Sara Ortiz Escalante, has been work in Barcelona which has included the way in which the  infrastructure at train stations can positively affect the perceptions of safety for women and pedestrians and cycling streets are looked at with a feminist perspective. Some simple adaptations to existing structures have made significant strides to improve the lives and safety of women and girls.

A very inspiring session and highlights that by adopting Wise Practices to influence Creating Women Friendly Cities should be something that we should all work together to promote and strive to achieve…

Yvonne Gibbon, APD People

The pandemic has particularly impacted the lives of women and girls in terms of violence, deprivation and deterioration of economic conditions, especially in under-developed and developing countries:

  • Women carried the increased burden of housework, childcare, caring for relatives, obtaining food/rations.
  • Migrating women did not have access to ration cards, were unable to travel home or to work.
  • Home based workers (seamstresses etc) despite being marginalised, the bottom of the pyramid and invisible, were not the poorest of the poor so did not qualify for support.
  • Many of the jobs traditionally employing women ceased and may not return leading to increased unemployment.
  • There was a shortage of food and funds for minority groups.
  • A recent report by the Halo Foundation suggested that there has been a 40% rise in child marriage and 25% increase in domestic violence since the start of the pandemic.

Clearly, there are huge economic implications for women resulting from the pandemic. More women will be pushed into poverty; more girls will be pushed out of school into the open arms of the sex traders or become victims of child marriage. Violence against women is still a huge issue and many women have been unable or were unwilling to report it to the authorities.

So what did the panellists suggest we do moving forward?

Change and unity were the key themes of the panellists’ suggestions because:

  • Based on pre-covid data, no country is likely to achieve gender equality by 2030.
  • Not one country achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) for Gender Equality; not even the Nordic countries.
  • The Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) envisioned gender equality in all dimensions of life—and no country has yet finished this agenda.

“If we continue to do business the same way, it won’t work.” Chandri Joshi

We need to take a quantum leap and become advocates for change and embrace the suggestions from the panellists:

  • Individuals, families, governments, private organisations, NGOs, voluntary organisations etc. must all be accountable. We must all join hands to create opportunities for development. Joining hands is very important – finding solutions together.
  • Combining the BPfA, MDGs and SDGs would create a targeted and strategic approach’ which would also create accountability.
  • “Let’s make the ‘digital divide’, the ‘digital unity’.” Online platforms have revolutionised the way we meet, socialise and learn. Let’s continue using these different and innovative ways of learning new skills.
  • Digital literacy is a must but also fundamental is ensuring women’s digital safety.
  • Governments should take action to educate and support women in DV or sex trade to empower them, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
  • Having gender-friendly policies is not enough. We need a gender platform and a gender responsive recovery plan, which will be a mechanism for reviewing progress.
  • Gender equality will not happen without political collaboration.
  • Domestic work must be shared equally between men and women.
  • We need full mobilisation of all resources together with encouragement of women in all areas.

“All women are working; only some are salaried” Chandri Joshi