Local Local Dialogues on Women in Urban Governance
- Listening to Women Voices
11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday 6 June 2001
Conference Room 8
by Asian Women and Shelter Network (AWAS)/Huairou Commission
& The Urban Governance Initiative of UNDP
aspect of good urban governance is having equitable participation
of women and men in urban governance. Urban governance must
be gender-sensitive if it is to be equitable, sustainable
and effective. Participation and civic engagement are critical
determinants of good governance, a concept that addresses
issues of social equity and political legitimacy and not
merely the efficient management of infrastructure and services.
The different ways in which women and men participate in
and benefit from urban governance are significantly shaped
by prevailing constructions of gender, whose norms, expectations
and institutional expressions constrain women's access to
the social and economic, thus political, resources of the
gender-sensitive approach to urban governance has two principal
A concerted approach to the issues of participation is required,
including an improvement in women's representation in political
structures and their active involvement in advocacy and
lobbying for equitable human settlements development through
participation in organizations outside of government.
governance, if it is to promote sustainable human development,
has to be not just pro-people or people-centred, it has
to be owned by people - and half of that people are women.
Given that women experience and use the urban environment
in different ways from men, they have different priorities
in terms of services and infrastructure, for example with
regard to transport, housing and basic urban services. Hence,
women should be encouraged and given understanding of their
roles in urban governance.
In conjunction with the World Habitat Day 2000, with its
theme Women in Urban Governance, The Urban Governance Initiative
(TUGI), in partnership with the Asian Women and Shelter
Network (AWAS) initiated a series of Local-Local Dialogues
on Women in Urban Governance to further highlight the need
to work with women to promote and acknowledge women's participation
and role in urban governance. Amongst issues highlighted
at the region-wide events includes:
Equity and equality of participation of women as
well as men in decision-making, not only within local
authorities themselves, but also within a concerted and
continuous dialogues between civil society and local governments.
Transparency and accountability to civil society
especially women living in poverty within the society.
partnerships which mean commitment to power and putting
resources behind those who are most effected in order
to ensure their participation. It requires deliberate
effort on all sides, both in terms of power sharing and
recognizing and working on equitable resource allocation.
Participation of women working in various sectors
in the dialogue so as to understand their role in promoting
good urban governance.
Principles of good governance do not necessarily link to
or recognise issues of women living in urban poor communities.
The framework of governance needs to be enriched by feedback
from community practice in which the role that women play
is highlighted and the mantle of invisibility removed. Urban
governance issues such as transport, infrastructure, housing
and basic services and the planning process around these
issues excludes, poor communities and women. These issues
are not seen as gender issues, or viewed through the gender
lens for that matter
Women and Community Participation - Women and their
capacity to operate collectively for public good are taken
for granted by society but rarely supported and assisted
or nurtured. Urban governance structures do not allow
for easy access to information, and therefore informed
participation by women and poor communities. Community
consultation exercises held by international, national
and local institutions are often insincere consultations
in that they seek to legitimize top down planning. New
forms of broad-based consultations with the private and
public sectors often tend to ignore the people's sector.
Participation of women's groups at the planning and design
stages of housing, basic services and infrastructure in
cities is not seen as important. Devolution of power within
cities, at the level of divisions and wards, again does
not necessarily lead to the inclusion of poor communities
and the women amongst them.
planning processes - At the level of cities, urban
planning, more often than not, involves professionals,
the majority of whom are men. Bottom up planning or planning
by communities is not the norm in urban planning; therefore,
issues of women and urban poor communities are invisible.
Top down planning has also meant lack of ownership of
basic services and infrastructure, resulting in misuse
of human resources and public funds.
settlements issues - In poor communities, which form
over 50% of the population of many cities, women continue
to subsidise and provide basic services such as child
care, health care, drinking water and sanitation to families
and communities. This reduces their involvement in public
roles. Safety and security of women and children in poor
communities is fast becoming a crucial issue in the face
of rising violence in cities. Women's priorities in sectors
such as transport, roads and drainage, water supply and
sanitation need to be highlighted as they are important
end users, and measures taken to reduce the drudgery and
problems faced due to lack of/ inadequate services. Privatisation
of services by municipal authorities has resulted in the
distancing of services to poor groups and reduced access
for women to key areas such as health services, education,
child care, etc. Women's groups face legal barriers in
formalising their work in the areas of credit, income
generation, etc. Lack of land /house titles and security
of tenure, increases the vulnerability of poor women,
especially those in women-headed households.
forms of governance - Peoples' organisations, women's
groups and co-operatives belong to the people's sector;
they have evolved self-help and collective ways of working
to tackle key problems faced such as lack of housing,
credit, basic services, etc. These organisations and movements
represent new forms of democratic participation and governance.
Specific issues are: - Lack of recognition of community
initiatives as a way of solving problems faced by cities
- Legal barriers faced by self-help groups and organisations
- Contracts in the area of housing and infrastructure
awarded by municipal authorities are serious barriers
for participation of women and community groups
Brief Introduction of TUGI and AWAS
on the findings of the Dialogues.
learned - The Asian Experience
Experiences - Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America.
participants of the Istanbul+5 Special Session are encouraged
For more information, please contact :
Sri Husnaini Sofjan at email@example.com
or Jonas Rabinovitch at