The New Urban Agenda, adopted at the UN-Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016, underlines the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls for readdressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed and managed. It stresses the need for gender-responsive urbanization through ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and in leadership at all levels of decision-making, decent work and equal pay for equal work and prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence against women and girls in private and public spaces through well-designed networks of safe, accessible, green and quality streets and other public spaces that are accessible to all and free from crime and violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women and girls. According to the latest UN-Habitat World Cities Report 2022, 90 million women and girls were pushed into poverty in 2020, a figure that is expected to reach 105.3 million by 2030. The United Nations Human Rights Council and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) also emphasized the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on the human rights of women and girls, in particular those of color, with disabilities, living in conflicts and post conflicts situations, as well as women migrants, indigenous women and care taker women. The Council also underlined that COVID-19 has led to an increase in violence against women and girls, increased the percentage of women subject to hunger, homelessness and exacerbated challenges to access sexual and reproductive health-care services and more generally weakened the implementation of their rights, including the right to education.
This scenario needs to be overturned. We need to push for sustainable, gender-responsive and equitable cities through brave commitments to tackle structural inequalities and create conditions that foster social, economic and spatial inclusion to ensure that no one is left behind and to strengthen measures for empowerment of women and girls. If appropriate measures are implemented, the response to the current urban crisis can lead to a collective reprioritization of cities across the world towards gender-responsive measures to ensure shared prosperity, inclusion, productive employment, innovation, environmental sustainability, urban mobility and cohesive community building.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a framework adopted by all United Nations Member States and is enshrined in human rights and empowerment of women. The Sustainable Development Goal 11 on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities together with the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality address all the above issues and together with other instruments such as CEDAW can advance a substantive understanding of gender equality that can serve as both a vision and an agenda for action.
Substantive equality requires fundamental transformation of economic and social institutions, including the beliefs, norms and attitudes that shape them, at every level of society, from households to labor markets and from communities to local, national and global governance institutions. Cities as hubs where such actions can be implemented should be provided with capacities and resources to turn current crises into opportunities to create gender-responsive societies free of conflict, violence and provide safe space where no one is left behind.
Women and Sustainable Urbanization Organized by
the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization
5 OCTOBER 2022
as part of UrbanOctober and Archtober
Co-sponsored by UN-Habitat New York Office and Turkish Women’s League-America
TURKISH CENTER823 United Nations Plaza, New York
Ms. Sermin Ozcilingir*, President, Turkish Women’s League-America
Ms. Aliye Pekin Celik, Ph.D., Chair CSU Board
Mr. Christopher Williams, Ph.D., Director, UN-Habitat Office
Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-HabitatMs. Sabine Freizer, Chief of the UN Women Governance and Participation Section, UN Women
Roundtable I: Gender-responsive policies, action and measures for cities
Moderator Ms. Danei Cesario, Associate, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Ms. Elif Onuralp, President and Owner of Define USA, Inc.
Ms. Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED ID+C, Principal, Perkins and Will
Prof. Ayse Yonder, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus , Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment School of Architecture, Pratt University and member Huairou Commission
Ms. Gizem Ayhan Karagoz, Project Manager, Smart and Sustainable Cities. New York City Economic Development Corporation and adjunct professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, Columbia University
Roundtable II: International instruments and their implementation for gender empowerment
Moderator: Ms. Irena Zubcevic, Senior Advisor, Permanent Mission of Croatia to the UN
Ms. Gülden Türköz-Cosslett, Former Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Director, UNDP
Prof. Yakin Ertürk, Ph.D., former United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women
Ms. Şulan Kolatan, Adjunct Professor, School of Architecture, Pratt University