Unleashing the power of gender equality in urban development

Categories : Blog


Author: Digital Frontiers Institute

Cities have always been at the forefront of human progress, serving as dynamic hubs of economic, social, and cultural activity. However, it is crucial to recognise that cities are not neutral entities; they have the potential to either perpetuate or challenge existing inequalities.

Gender equality in urban development plays a pivotal role in creating inclusive urban spaces and nurturing thriving societies. To promote greater gender equality, the current development of urban infrastructure and the built environment needs to be redesigned to be more inclusive. Viewing families, communities, towns, cities, and regions from a gender perspective requires a radical shift both in thinking and in actions. In this article, we will explore the significance of gender equality in shaping our cities and the benefits it brings to individuals and communities.

Understanding the Gendered Nature of Urban Spaces:

To truly unleash the power of gender equality, we must first recognise that urban spaces are not gender neutral. Throughout history, cities have been planned and designed from a predominantly male perspective, often neglecting the diverse needs and experiences of women, girls, and other marginalised genders. Think about the countless times you have walked through a poorly lit alley or hesitated to use public transportation late at night, and not be able to work late due to a lack of affordable childcare facilities. These experiences, shaped by patriarchal societal norms, limit women’s mobility, safety, and access to resources in urban environments.

Creating Inclusive Urban Spaces:

Gender equality in urban development requires intentionally designing and planning cities that cater to the needs of all genders. It is about acknowledging that women’s experiences and perspectives are invaluable in shaping urban environments. Let me share a personal anecdote to illustrate this point. Last year, during a community workshop for redesigning a neighbourhood park, a group of women came forward to emphasise the importance of having safe and accessible pathways, seating areas, and proper lighting. Their insights highlighted the need for inclusive public spaces that enable women and marginalised genders to navigate the city confidently, free from fear or discomfort.

In our quest for inclusive urban spaces, there are several key sub-points or supporting details to consider:

  1. Safe and Accessible Public Spaces: Imagine a city with well-lit, well-maintained public spaces, featuring clear pathways, accessible amenities, and inclusive public transportation systems. These elements empower individuals of all genders to navigate their cities safely and confidently. It is about creating spaces that accommodate diverse needs and foster a sense of belonging for everyone.
  2. Affordable and Adequate Housing: Housing affordability and quality are critical aspects of promoting gender equality in urban areas. Consider a scenario where affordable housing options are designed to cater to the specific needs of women, such as proximity to affordable childcare facilities, healthcare services and safe transportation. These considerations can alleviate the burdens that disproportionately affect women, allowing them to thrive in their urban environments.
  3. Inclusive Economic Opportunities: Gender equality in urban development involves promoting equal access to economic opportunities within cities. It means addressing gender wage gaps, fair work practices, inclusive workplaces, fostering entrepreneurship amongst women, and ensuring equitable access to education and skill development programmes. These opportunities also need to be aware of the need for flexible working hours that allow for the mobility of parents but especially those of sole guardians of children. These initiatives not only empower women economically but also contribute to a thriving and inclusive urban economy.
  4. Community Participation: Encouraging meaningful participation of women and marginalised genders in urban decision-making processes is crucial. It is about ensuring that their voices are heard and their unique perspectives are integrated into the planning and development of cities. Anecdotal evidence highlights how, when diverse voices come together, innovative solutions emerge that cater to the needs of all community members.

Embracing gender equality in urban development is vital for building inclusive and sustainable cities that work for everyone. By recognising and addressing the gendered nature of urban spaces, we create environments that empower women, girls, and marginalised genders, promoting their safety, well-being, and full participation in society.


Safaa Charafi

Architect Urbanist &  Gender, Diversity & Inclusion consultant

DFI Community Member


Established in 2015, Digital Frontiers Institute is a proud brand of Digital Frontiers. Learn more about the Gender Equality Changemakers (GEC) programme and find out how to enrol: https://genderequality.digitalfrontiersinstitute.org/