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the status of women and sustainable cities

Madeleine Brecher and Joan Lurie Goldberg report on the  NGO Committee on the Status of Women meeting on  October 20, 2016:  “Sustainable Cities and follow up to Habitat III”.

The moderator, Carol Bangura introduced the meeting by giving some background on Habitat III, the UN Housing and Urban Sustainable Development conference held in Ecuador from 17 to 20 October, 2016.  It was successful in that the participants agreed to renewed political commitment for sustainable cities.

Soon Young Yoon of WEDO was the first speaker and she had just returned from Habitat III. Why, she asked, do we need sustainable cities?:
By 2050 more than 60% of all women will live in cities.  In parts of Africa and Asia, this represents a 90% increase from present levels.
Cities will determine the future of the world.  70% of greenhouse gas emissions are from cities.
Concerning innovation, she remarked that cities can scale up CEDAW and integrate the SDGs by forming  partnerships to further feminism and the human rights of women while promoting sustainability.

A Women’s Assembly was held in Quito just before the Habitat III conference.  Themes included:
Cities for CEDAW
Economic empowerment of women
The need for safe cities
Access to land and property 
Climate change and the environment.
Energy and the need for clean cooking stoves to decrease carbon emissions.

She also mentioned an interesting study done in New Delhi on the different ways in which women (as opposed to men) use public transport.

Lots of good ideas but many challenges including lack of data on women in cities, lack of budget, gender bias in city hiring.  There is progress – e.g. the United Cities and local Government Gender Committee, an international entity chaired by Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris. A document called “The City We Need” describes 10 principles of World Urban Campaign. Their so-called elevator pitch:  Use CEDAW to guide the fulfillment of SDG 11. There must be an end to violence in cities; there is no path to walkable and transit friendly cities if women do not feel safe.

Azedeh Khalili the founding Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity, NYC. She was appointed by Mayor DeBlasio seven months ago.  She came to the US from Iran as an unaccompanied minor.  Her mandate is to bring gender equity to all NYC institutions and to make government accountable for creating good outcomes for women.  Currently, 61% of senior leadership in NYC government are women.

Her priorities:
Economic mobility and opportunity
Public safety for women and girls
Access to health care and reproductive justice
Pay equity and gender bias among 260,000 city workers.  She has a strategy to close the pay gap and will, hopefully, with the mayor’s approval, announce it soon.
She has made NYC the first American city to join UN Women and it is also on target to become a City for CEDAW.

Marina Mancinelli is with UN Women and is specialist on gender at UNFPA (UN Population Fund). 
She reiterated much of what the other speakers said particularly about the need for safe public spaces. 
Beware of sexual violence on public transportation.
Women are scared to enroll in education courses after dark because freedom of movement is limited.