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Nairobi, 7 Mar 14

Girls learn how to assemble a solar lantern in a UN-Habitat hands-on training on energy efficiency and renewable energy, Nairobi, 2013. The knowledge gained gives the girls an opportunity to develop profitable green businesses. (see article on the training).
Nowhere else can equality for women produce more progress for all than in cities.

Cities are an urban construct and can be developed and shaped for the benefit of the entire population. This is both necessary and possible now more than ever. A city cannot become full economically productive, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable, as long as there are barriers to gender equality and women’s empowerment. A city can become prosperous, equitable and sustainable only if women and men enjoy equal human rights and fundamental freedoms and are recognized as equal partners in urban development.

Working in the framework of equitable and sustainable urban development and “cities for life”, UN-Habitat is developing a New Urban Agenda for the 21st Century that takes into account the fundamental potential of urbanization to promote sustainable development for all.

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are a key priority in the overall agency’s mandate and in the urban paradigm shift that we must adopt to see the city more as an asset and a solution,” says Dr Joan Clos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director. “Urbanization is an extremely powerful force and it can solve many of the challenges confronting contemporary human development, such as those related to gender inequality, but only if we adopt a holistic, city-wide approach and promote a more proactive perspective on the city, maximizing its agglomeration advantages and economies of scale.”

A mixed-use city is a great solution to all the problems related to mobility that affect women and girls in cities worldwide: it minimizes transport and service delivery costs, optimizes the use of land and promotes social diversity. The way in which space is planned, designed and shaped is central to the process of city development,especially to ensure equitable access to urban basic services and transport infrastructure for women and men, and to reduce possibilities for gender based violence and crime. Effective law codes and regulations are key instruments for pursuing resilient human development: it is extremely important that women and men have equal rights and are equally engaged in urban governance.

To seize the opportunity urbanization presents, we need to promote endogenous development of cities, too, and to act in ways that primarily benefit city-dwellers themselves, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. Women constitute the largest segment of urban residents that face multiple rights violations, including the right to decent living conditions. So, if “Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost” –as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon says – to win this battle, to ensure urbanization is a driver for sustainable development, we need to strive to empower women’s and girls’ rights, promote gender equality and equal participation in decision-making, and develop services that benefit equally men and women, and girls and boys, in developing towns and cities worldwide.

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