Women and Youth for Inclusive, Safe and Accessible Public Spaces
The main session for us occurred already on day 1. The session debated key issues regarding public space, safety and urban mobility through the gender and youth lenses. The speakers aimed to outline strategies and tools to contribute towards a vision of a gender and age inclusive cities, where women, youth, children and elderly can use and enjoy quality access to public space. The session was well structured to increase awareness on how urban public spaces are planned, implemented and used in order to identify the potential inherent in this space for more inclusive and prosperous cities.
Across the world, public space is becoming an ever more critical issue in light of rapid urbanization. For women, youth and children, public space is particularly valuable for empowerment due to opportunities presented for political, social and cultural participation as well as entrepreneurship. Public space, mobility and safety are key elements to access education, health services, employment and leisure activities. One of the pillars of a truly sustainable urban development is a vision of a gender and age inclusive city where women, youth and children can access, enjoy and contribute to safe, humane and welcoming public space.
The session, kicked off by Dana Podmolikova – UN-Habitat YAB Representative from Europe, who outlined the importance of public spaces for youth. Young people being the largest demographic that actually use public spaces, need safe and accessible space to escape from their often challenging family circumstances. They need appropriate space to meet, interact and socialize with their peers. Public spaces are also fantastic for play, sports, arts and culture, making them great arenas for self-expression. This has also been emphasized by Ms. Rose Muema, the Head City Planner of Nairobi, who shared some of the best practices the Kenyan Capital has to offer.
Gender-sensitive planning in the city of Vienna, presented by Ms. Doris Damyanovic from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, counts as another good example of urban planning project founded on participatory approaches. Space is not neutral. Women do not enjoy the same access to public space as it is often characterized by gender-based violence. Although women have the equal rights to safe urban space and to live without fear, the reality makes it hard to adhere to, explained Ms. Teresa Boccia from the Federico II University in Napoli.
Very interesting session was concluded with questions from the audience. The one-on-one discussions carried on long after the end of the session.