Gender and Urban Development – Or, what kind of city do I want to live in?

Prabha Khosla ADB Regional Seminar on Gender, Urban Development and Water Supply and Sanitation November 14th 2011,Vientiane, Lao PDR
The views expressed in this paper are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this paper do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology.

Urbanization in Asia Today: A Profile
1990 urbanization rate of 31.5%  2010 urbanization rate of 42%.  Asian cities host 1.7 billion inhabitants -50% of the world urban pop.  850 million live in cities of 500,000 or less.  2020 will host 2.2 billion  Urbanization trends dominated by China and India’s demographics.  30-60% of urban residents are poor.

Asian Mega Cities

Hong Kong

Mumbai Mumbai

Numbers do not tell how women and men actually live in cities.

Factors behind urbanization

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Cities forefront of rapidly growing Asian economies – offer jobs, health care, education, innovation, opportunities and choices Migration from rural (low growth) to urban (high growth) areas Natural increase of urban pop Re-classification & expansion of urban areas Concentration of infrastructure, services, labour efficiencies for industrialization, commerce, finance Urbanization an inevitable trajectory of economic development. Offer women and girls – jobs, education & economic opportunities, – compared to rural areas.

Challenges of urbanization: Spatial form and infrastructure
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In adequate planning - high number of slums and informal settlements – high densities for the poor. Lack of access to land, serviced land, insecurity of tenure, poor housing. Inadequate municipal infrastructure – water, sanitation, drainage, electricity, solid waste management, health, education and social services not provided to the majority of the poor. Insufficient pedestrian-friendly planning & public transit – too many cars. Compromised eco-systems - water sources, air, solid and liquid waste, industrial effluents. These gaps have a greater negative impact on women and girls due to existing inequalities in society.

Challenges of urbanization: Economic and Social Realities
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Informal economy dominant in informal settlements. High unemployment, irregular work, income insecurity, lower incomes, and riskier asset base for women. Higher cost of living - goods and services, housing, bribes, higher health costs – increasing poverty. Lack of social safety nets. Women and girls faces greater disadvantages (dignity, safety, health, livelihoods) in informal settlements – lack of gendersensitive infrastructure, facilities, services. Destructive & higher impacts of natural disasters – floods, high winds, rains, heat... Increase women’s work. Evictions increasing poverty by displacement and loss of employment and community – worse on women than men.

Challenges of urbanization: Governance

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Urban planning and development excluding poor women and men from essential services and infrastructure, provision of serviced land, transport infrastructure, housing... Regulations exclude the poor – land-use, housing standards, pedestrian access, etc Inappropriate policy and legal frameworks for sustainable cities – women and girls missing. Lack of equity & gender-awareness in policy and legal frameworks, municipal institutions and mandates. Weak institutional capacity Inadequate financial resources Lack of political power and voice for poor women.



Urban Poverty
Issues Access to land, security of tenure & housing Implications for women and girls Inadequate services and affordable land penalizes and improvishes single mothers and their children. Lack of secure tenure or shared tenure increasing women’s poverty and vulnerability in situations of domestic violence and family breakdown.

Access to infrastructure and services

Women and girls are loose time and experience stress when negotiating access to inadequate water and toilets. Unsafe water increases women’s care responsibilities, raises health costs and limits their income generating possibilities. Access to safe, frequent and affordable transportation often missing. Limited or non-existent health, school, recreation services increase women’s care-taking responsibilities.
Lower employment options and low incomes prevent security of housing. Insecurity of tenure means poor women have less resources, less assets and less credit. Informal sector activities bring little income for high investments of time and labour – piece work, selling of cooked food, sewing. Below official wage rates and piece work compromise minding children in congested living environments.


Safety and Security

Implications for women and girls
Inadequate and inappropriate access or affordability of water, toilets, drainage, lights, lanes, and transport puts women at risk of sexual harassment and assault. Lack of employment and insecurity of informal sector wages make women and girls vulnerable to sexual harassment from landlords and ‘middle men’ and leaves no option to make ends meet except the sex trade. Poor drainage and lack of solid waste management fosters mosquitoes, flies, unpleasant spells, clog drains and ill health adding to women’s domestic responsibilities. Small plot sizes and small dwellings expose women and children to indoor air pollution from cooking. Lanes overflowing with waste water and garbage are difficult for pregnant women, people with disabilities and older women and men to navigate as well as when carrying water. Slums are usually close to or surrounded by contaminating industrial activities – women and children in slums more exposed.

Compromised living environments

Lack of political voice

Women and girls excluded from participation in local govnt. structures and decision making including in community groups. Women and girls excluded from creating sustainable solutions. Deny women and girls their human rights to choices over their lives.

Lets ask ourselves a question.
How do I want to live? What quality of life do I want? What changes do we need to make to get there? We plan cities from this point of view. ...I would like a safe city, job, affordable housing, private bathroom & running water in home, healthy environment, mobility, arts & cultural activities... Let us put ourselves in our cities to create liveable and viable cities.
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Facilitating pro-poor and gender-inclusive urban development: Some considerations
Communities and Engaging Women Meaningful engagement of poor women and men in urban infrastructure and services development and management.

Explicit attention to engagement of poor women – including building their capacity to engage in decision making/implementation/O&M/financial management, etc.
Community women’s equal representation in local government structures. Women’s CBOs or NGOs and civil society partners to facilitate engagement of poor women in politics and development. Attention to factors that limit poor women’s involvement – child care, domestic responsibilities, literacy, safety, VAW, time off fm livelihood activities, lack of mobility, etc.

Public Sector

Good governance inclusive of gender equity and poverty reduction are essential for the attainment of sustainable economic and political development.

Enabling gender-sensitive policy and regulatory environments/providing leadership/leading by example. Reform of local governments, urban planning and policies to be informed by sustainability principles of equality and equity, social justice, transparency, accountability, participation, precautionary principle, environmental integrity with an emphasis on gender equality and poverty reduction. Review urban land policies to make serviced land, security of tenure, housing subsidies available for poor – focus on women and single mothers. Urban planning to focus women-friendly cities – transportation, public spaces, community centres, employment equity, violence against women, safety. Enrique Penalosa – Bogata – bicycle corridors and community facilities – to facilitate poor settlements – women’s safety and transportation. Urban upgrading and development projects to ensure equity for poor women in opportunities for training, jobs, promotions, and SMEs – markets/transportation

Municipal fiscal policy and budgets to increasing access to basic services – Quito, Ecuador’s Zona Sur. –

Private Sector

Commitment to local and national government policies on sustainability with emphasis on gender equality, poverty reduction and environmental accountability. Increase employment opportunities for women. Tenders and contracts outline commitments to equity in hiring, division of labour, wages, engagement of poor communities in design and implementation decisions. Gender-sensitive technology options for housing and infrastructure. Gender-sensitive and climate proofing of infrastructure design – water, sewerage systems, drains, transportation, etc. Increase access, efficiency and affordability of basic services in poor urban communities.

Innovative initiatives - Gender Mainstreaming in Vienna
The Initiative began in 2000 with the following objectives:  Consider the different life situations of women and men in all decisions.  Ensure opportunities are available to both women and men.  Create spaces for women and men in the city.  Give women and men a sense of security.  Distribute chances, opportunities, and responsibilities equally.

Gender Mainstreaming implementation will:
Evaluate and consider all users of public services and their different needs.  Consider not only gender, but also social, ethnic, and health-related differences.  Adapt the products and services provided by the City Administration.  Gender equality can no longer remain a fringe topic, but has to become an integrated part of all processes, measures, and of quality management. Benefits:  Increased planning accuracy  Quality and effectiveness of measures

Specific initiatives in:

Public Lighting  Gender-Responsive Budgeting  Cemeteries  GM of Public Spaces  Increase Pedestrian access - widening pavements, pedestrian crossing,  Expanding access to econ opportunities  Gender-inclusive signage in the city  and more... .


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Jarvis, Helen. ,with Paula Kantor and Jonathan Cloke. 2009. Cities and Gender. Routledge, New York. Khosla, Prabha, 2008. Gender in Local Government: A Sourcebook for Trainers, UN-HABITAT, Nairobi. RTPI in 2003. Gender Equality and Plan Making. Gender-Mainstreaming-Toolkit-Summary.pdf UN-HABITAI, 2010. State of Asian Cities Report 2010-2011. Nairobi. UN-HABITAT, 2010. State of the World’s Cities 2010/11: Bridging the Urban Divide, Nairobi.

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