How to Integrate Violence Against Women Prevention, Response in Urban Development

A young woman in Poipet, Cambodia.
A young woman in Poipet, Cambodia.

By Laurence Levaque

A quick reference for urban planners to address violence against women and girls in their efforts to ensure safe cities and neighborhoods.

As part of ADB’s support for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Global Campaign, here is a quick reference for urban planners to address violence against women and girls (VAWG) in their efforts to ensure safe cities and neighborhoods in Asia.

The region's urban areas are growing fast, with about 1.2 billion Asians expected to move to cities over the next 35 years. Urban development projects can and must help create environments that are friendly and safe for women and girls. In such environments, women and men have equal opportunities to use and enjoy public spaces and urban services.

Below are possible entry points for mainstreaming VAWG prevention and response in urban development interventions.

Participatory and evidence-based planning

  • Involve women and adolescent girls as active participants in the identification of priority safety issues; unsafe public spaces; contributing factors; and possible solutions to improve safety.
  • Promote the use of a women’s safety audit tool as an integral part of the regular planning process, conduct a survey or focus group discussions on women’s safety.
  • Ensure the needs of more vulnerable groups of women/girls are taken into consideration.
  • Develop gender-sensitive safety criteria for integration in urban planning and design standards, and/or guidelines for creating safe and women-friendly cities/neighborhoods.
  • Create or review local government/municipal policies, programs and services to address identified priority safety issues and to prevent VAWG.
  • Institutionalize data collection and analysis on women’s safety and VAWG as part of collection and analysis of sex disaggregated data and gender-related information.

Safe physical environment

  • Ensure adequate lighting on the street and in and around public facilities such as toilets; visibility by removing physical structures like trees or walls that obstruct lighting; legible signs; and clean and walkable roads and sidewalks.
  • Adopt gender-responsive physical design features for public sanitation facilities.
  • Install emergency phones in public spaces.
  • Invest in beautifying and cleaning up cities or neighborhoods to reduce the perception of abandonment and fear that often leads to violence.
  • Develop an operation and maintenance plan for public infrastructure and services to ensure the sustainability of the physical design features.

Prevention and support services

  • Increase visible police presence and invest in increased security through community policing, regular patrols, recruitment of more security personnel.
  • Create women-only police stations in unsafe neighborhoods or women/children units within local stations.
  • Set up specific local police programs to prevent VAWG, including self-defense courses.
  • Develop or review mechanisms for reporting incidences of VAWG via ICT tools such as SMS, websites, apps or social media.
  • Provide legal, financial, social and psychological support services for victims of VAWG.
  • Consider the need to establish one-stop crisis centers, especially in densely populated cities.
  • Educate women and girls in the community about their rights.

Community mobilization

  • Conduct an education/awareness raising campaign over a long period of time on VAWG, the importance of women’s safety among women and men in the city/neighborhood, and promote positive norms and attitudes.
  • Mobilize women/girls and men/boys in the city/neighborhood to participate actively in the process of creating a safe environment and take ownership of it.
  • Enhance partnerships between local governments/municipalities, community decision-makers, community organizations, and women and men in the community.

Capacity building

  • Develop a module/review training curriculum for urban planners, designers and architects that includes women and girls’ safety issues.
  • Build the capacity of urban planners and designers in gender analysis for use of public spaces.
  • Train police officers on how to deal with VAWG cases in a gender-sensitive manner.

This is the first of a series of 4 blogs about ADB’s support to the global campaign to mobilize people to take a stand on VAWG between 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and Human Rights Day on 10 December.