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Making a case for gender-sensitive cities

Aug 03, 2009

Women’s participation in urban governance is vital in creating equitable cities, says Addressing Gender Concern in India’s Urban Renewal Mission, a paper published by UNDP. It makes a case for integrating gender issues in all aspects of urban planning to reduce class and gender fragmentation.

Addressing Gender Concern in India's Urban Renewal Mission

Author: Renu Khosla

Publisher: UNDP, 2009


Gender based urban development is about promoting cities that respond equally to men and women. India’s Jawaharlal National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) is a response to concerns arising out of the rapid and unplanned urban growth and the economic disparities that are creating ‘dual cities’, one face of which is modern and developed while the other is underdeveloped and without basic amenities.

The author argues that because women experience cities differently, meeting women’s needs becomes critical to promoting sustainable/equitable urban development. Urban women, while generally sharing specific gender interests arising from a common set of responsibilities and roles, constitute a fairly diverse group.

There are elderly women, working women and women whose major responsibility is in the domestic sphere. There are also women who balance multiple roles at the same time. Thus, urban development planning must respond to the needs of these diverse groups.

JNNURM’s good urban governance and reform agenda aims to reduce class and gender fragmentation by making socio-political-economic institutions, processes and resource allocations more equitable. The paper identifies following interdependent norms for Good Urban Governance (GUG):

  • Sustainability – Sustainable cities for women will mean spaces where they have access to basic municipal services that will allow them to pursue their livelihood strategies and manage their households without getting into conflict with the local government.
  • Decentralization – Women’s genuine participation can be ensured by putting them in charge of key planning committees. It is also important to bring on to municipal committees, women members of the civil society that come from slum areas or their representatives, through an amendment in the Constitution or as special guests, to improve level of stakeholder participation/ debate.
  • Equity – Even when resources are available, public expenditure may be under-allocated in gender terms’. By excluding health, education, social services and employment from JNNURM, women will be adversely affected, as many of these services are required by them.
  • Efficiency – Efficient services can help support women in their livelihood strategies (water and toilets in the house), mobility (better public transport), rights achievements (access to education and health care) and participation (all these).
  • Transparency and Accountability – A World Bank study demonstrates that greater participation of women in public life reduces public sector corruption (World Bank, 2000). Increasing women’s engagement in public planning and debate makes good governance sense, as it will bring about greater probity and openness of public agencies.
  • Civic engagement and Citizenship – Local authorities must encourage full engagement of women citizens, especially from the poor and excluded groups, for finding better ways of reaching services to poor.
  • Security – Unsafe cities restrict women’s mobility, putting a ceiling on their contribution to urban economic development. City planning must therefore redefine the rules of the game to ensure cities become safer for women.

The author also highlights several case studies from across India to demonstrate the strength of community mobilization and women’s involvement in achieving good and inclusive governance.

Source : UNDP
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