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International Women’s Day: Implementing the New Urban Agenda on Gender Equality

08 March 2017 Author:

Habitat III Blog Visual

This is the seventh in a series of blogs following the major UN Habitat III conference held in Quito, Ecuador, in October.

"On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment." These were the words of new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres for International Women’s Day (IWD) this year. Within planning this means supporting women within the planning profession, and designing better cities for women.

Women In Rio . Photo Credit Flickr - Sheila Tostes

Since IWD in 2016, the New Urban Agenda (NUA) was formally adopted by national governments at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, commonly referred to as Habitat III, on 20 October 2016, in Quito, Ecuador. The agreement provides the road-map for sustainable urban development in our cities over the next 20 years, and its implementation will contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. So what does the agreement mean for gender equality?

How we engage women fully in shaping the city and ensuring women’s safety were particularly prominent questions at Habitat III, and the NUA calls for gender equality through sustainable and gender-inclusive cities.  Within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, SDG 11 (the ‘urban goal’) calls for making cities and urban settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and commits to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, with explicit reference to women (while SDG 10 calls to reduce inequalities).

The NUA offers a chance to respond to improve the spatial configuration of cities and places in a gender-inclusive way, ensuring participation by all groups. Planners and urban designers have a key role to play in promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, to echo Guterres’ words.  To achieve greater gender equality, we need to create mixed-use, accessible and safe places with short travel distances between work, childcare, schools, shops and services, better transport, and user-friendly urban spaces. And ultimately this will be better not only for women but for everyone.

Beyond this, the UN Women 2017 IWD theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. This is also important to consider for the planning profession in the UK.   Currently,  entrants to the planning profession are at a record 50% female, but the planning profession as a whole is comprised 37% women. The recent ONS statistics on pay between the genders found a higher than average gender pay gap in the profession. The RTPI will be looking at what we can do to support employers to achieve a better gender and diversity balance in the workplace. The Institute is currently running a survey of major employers to find out more about what might be behind this statistic, and will be looking at it in more detail through the all members survey to be announced later this year. 

To celebrate IWD 2017 the Institute has launched an online resource for members to understand how planning can deliver safe, healthy and sustainable environments for everyone and make the profession more equal, along other activities on the day. Join the conversation on Twitter via #IWD2017.