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Lessons Learnt: Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls (UN Women)

The UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls gives a brief guide on what planning and designing safe public spaces for women and girls means.

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The main lesson learnt is that it is very important to consult women and girls who are the intended users of a given space. The guide emphasizes that community members, particularly women, should collaborate with one another to create spaces that facilitate healthy social relations. 

What's useful about this guide is it also provides reasons as to why women and girls may find it hard to participate in public planning and design meetings. 

My question is,  how can we encourage women and girls to attend and participate in the design of their own communities given the barriers to doing so?

Link to the center's brief guide:


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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Nice one Po-Yi! Such an important point and one we're really trying to keep in mind in this challenge. One exciting thing to share is that members of the team from Amplify (you can see who they are in the challenge brief) will be going to India and Nepal very soon to meet with local women and girls and invite them to join in our challenge discussion, process and collaborations. The team will be helping to share the women's stories and blogging from the field throughout their trip – so stay tuned! :)

Photo of An Old Friend

Hello Ashley! Yes, please keep us posted on their trip. How exciting!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Agreed – you raise a great point about how to encourage women to participate – especially as there may be stigma around joining in on this kind of thing. I wonder if it might help if women are called together over something that feels more natural in their community (sharing a meal, etc) as the initial focus – with the sharing of information + opinions on more delicate topics taking a secondary focus. This could be a way of building trust and comfort to pave the way for ongoing participation?

Photo of Haydee Izaguirre

The idea of making the discussion the "secondary" focus is a great way to approach women who would otherwise not participate. Studying how women interact with their public spaces in a particular community is key as well. For example is you find they gather at a park with their children, you could approach them there, where they feel at ease and also where they are directly engaging with the topic you are trying to study. Showing them how their contribution has a direct impact on their environment and/or their children's might also encourage participation. You could show examples of the positive effects of direct participation by women in designing public spaces.
Also, I think identifying a leader among the women will also be key to having women participate. In every community there is always at least one woman who is willing to voice her opinion louder than the rest and identifying this person and enlisting them to promote a dialogue would also increase engagement.
Something else to consider, is holding separate meetings with men in the community and asking them similar questions to the women would help; especially if the men's thoughts were passed on to the women and they had a chance to hear what the men thought and agree/disagree. This might also promote, in an all women atmosphere some, a dialogue.

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Hi Ashley. Great to hear that the team will be meeting with women and girls in India and Nepal. Are there also plans to visit countries in Africa or Latin America?