Category Archives: Women

Creating Safe Public Spaces

Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces are an everyday occurrence for women and girls around the world—in urban and rural areas, in developed and developing countries.

Women and girls experience and fear various types of sexual violence in public spaces, from sexual harassment to sexual assault including rape and femicide. It happens on streets, public transport and parks, in and around schools and workplaces, in public sanitation facilities and water and food distribution sites, or in their own neighbourhoods.

This reality reduces women’s and girls’ freedom of movement. It reduces their ability to participate in school, work and in public life. It limits their access to essential services, and enjoyment of cultural and recreational opportunities. It also negatively impacts their health and well-being.

Although violence in the private domain is now widely recognized as a human rights violation, violence against women and girls, especially sexual harassment in public spaces, remains a largely neglected issue, with few laws or policies in place to prevent and address it.


UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative includes two main flagship programmes. In 2010, with UN-Habitat and 50 other global and local partners, we launched “Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls” in Quito, Ecuador; Cairo, Egypt; New Delhi, India; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; and Kigali, Rwanda.It is the first-ever global comparative programme that develops, implements, and evaluates tools, policies and comprehensive approaches on the prevention of, and response to, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls across different settings.
In 2011, UN Women, UNICEF, and UN-Habitat launched the “Safe and Sustainable Cities for All” joint programme in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; San José, Costa Rica; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Nairobi, Kenya; Beirut, Lebanon; Marrakesh, Morocco; Manila, Philippines; and Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative has generated a number of innovative results through partnerships with mayors’ offices, national Governments, women’s groups and other community partners. The municipality of Quito, for example, has amended a local ordinance to strengthen action against sexual harassment in public spaces. New Delhi has integrated Safe Cities approaches in social protection schemes, while Egypt’s Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development adopted women’s safety audits to guide urban planning. Port Moresby’s National Capital District has taken steps to improve women’s safety in local markets.

– See more at:


An Autocomplete Truth – UN Women

The 21st century has been hailed as the century of women. Yet a recent Google search shows just how much prejudice and discrimination towards women and gender equality persist. The Autocomplete Truth builds on the international viral success of the print/web “Autocomplete Truth” advertising campaign ( from UN Women, developed by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai that first revealed the depth of that discrimination. The video argues that at this point in history, popular perception should be different and women should be seen as equal.

The Google search depicted in The Autocomplete Truth was conducted on 9 March 2013. We urge you to go ahead and try it — what does your search show about gender stereotypes and the lack of equality for women’s rights?

Nelson Mandela

Freedom can’t be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.

Nelson Mandela

From Peace to Politics: Burundian Women Take Charge

Remembering #NelsonMandela‘s work to bring women to the table during peace talks in Burundi.

This video depicts how women crossed political parties and ethnic groups to become a unified force. Dramatically under-represented in the political forum in their country, as a unified entity women paved the way for their political participation and voices to be heard. Their solidarity enabled their concerns regarding previously ignored issues, such as female inheritance and war crimes against women, to have a much needed forum. Facilitated by UNIFEM as well as other UN and regional agencies, fifty Burundian women gathered and met with Nelson Mandela in July of 2000 to put forward their recommendations to be included in the Burundi Peace Negotiations. More than half of these recommendations were implemented in the Burundi Peace Accord. Recent elections have shown a dramatic increase in women elected to Parliament with thirty-six seats out of one-hundred-eighteen being held by women. (Year of Release: 2006)

From Kigali to Quito, a journey towards safer cities

In the first south-south exchange under UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Programme, the Deputy Mayor of Kigali, Rwanda, recently visited Quito, Ecuador to share experiences and discuss challenges.

Date: 19 November 2013


At first glance the inhabitants of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, may have little in common with those in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. However, they share with each other as well as with many other cities in the world, the global challenge of women’s and girls’ experience of or fear of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces.[1]

Quito and Kigali are two of the five cities that in 2010 worked with UN Women to develop and implement innovative strategies to make their public spaces more secure for women and girls under the Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls Global Programme. Both cities are implementing comprehensive and evidence-based initiatives in partnership with the UN, women’s groups, and other civil society partners to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence against women and girls in public spaces.

Three years later, these two cities are now working closely to learn what has worked and how they can further collaborate. In the first south-south exchange under the Global Programme, in October 2013, Hope Tumukunde, Vice Mayor of Kigali, and Benon Kabera, Kigali Safe City Coordinator, UN Women, visited their counterparts in Quito.

“This exchange has been most rewarding. I am taking with me valuable first-hand information to share with my colleagues in Kigali City office and beyond,” said Ms. Tumukunde after an official visit to Quito to learn about specific interventions in the metropolitan area and two of its municipal zones, Quitumbe and Eloy Alfaro, in southern Quito.

Quito offers an important case study since it was the first participating city in the Global Programme to include safety for women and girls in public spaces in its municipal legislation, within just one year of the programme’s implementation.

Rwandan delegates learned about Quito’s Safe City Plan, a roadmap that includes implementing a city ordinance that allocates a specific budget to bolster police training in urban public spaces, among other actions. The plan has also identified existing municipal programmes and projects that would benefit from integrating a gender approach and the issue of violence against women and earmarked them for additional funding in 2015.

(From left to right) María Hernández, Administrator of Quitumbe; Hope Tumukunde, Vice Mayor of Kigali; Benon Kabera, Coordinator of Safe Cities UN Women Rwanda; and Azucena Sono, Coordinator of Safe Cities in the Patronato Municipality of San José, meet in Quitumbe. Photo: UN Women
(From left to right) María Hernández, Administrator of Quitumbe; Hope Tumukunde, Vice Mayor of Kigali; Benon Kabera, Coordinator of Safe Cities UN Women Rwanda; and Azucena Sono, Coordinator of Safe Cities in the Patronato Municipality of San José, meet in Quitumbe. Photo: UN Women

In Quitumbe, project leaders highlighted that participatory planning is one of the best tools to ensure safer cities safer for all.

“Thanks to this approach, we realized that people feel ownership and take care of public spaces when urban planners engage them and hear their voices,” explained María Hernández, Administrator of Quitumbe. “Participatory planning has identified a major demand to reclaim parks, with lighting being one of the main requests. Women have asked for a sports complex, with recreational spaces, to be implemented in 2014–2015.”

In the municipal zone of Eloy Alfaro, the delegation visited the Equity and Justice Centre (CEJ), which provides comprehensive psychological, social and legal support to survivors of gender-based violence. After the city ordinance was adopted in March 2012, the centre expanded its services to deal not only with survivors or domestic violence but with cases of sexual harassment and other forms of violence in public spaces.

The visit also provided the opportunity for Rwandan officials to share their experiences with implementing One-Stop Centres, which offer holistic services similar to that of the CEJs, but which also have a physician available to perform expert-witness examinations, which is very important for legal admissibility of the evidence of violence.

The Kigali delegation was also interested in Quito’s Observatory on Citizen Security, established over nine years ago, which compiles and analyses statistics and trends on crime and public safety. Helping city officials and their partners better understand the degree and nature of crime and violence, it has become a useful mechanism that feeds into public policy and decision-making on security issues. As a result of the Quito Safe City Programme, the Observatory will now include data on the prevalence of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women in the city’s public spaces that was not previously available.

In the coming months, the Global Safe Cities initiative will continue to facilitate global exchanges on Safe City programmes, including through south-south cooperation visits such as these.

Related links:

South-south cooperation: Interview with the Deputy Mayor of Kigali prior to her visit to Quito

Q&A with the Mayor of Quito, illustrating the Safe Cities programme


[1] In Quito, a scoping study conducted in 2011 reveals that 68 per cent of women experienced some form of sexual harassment and sexual violence, at least once in the previous year. In Kigali, a baseline study conducted in 2012 reveals that 42 per cent of women said they are concerned about going to educational institutions during the day, and 55 per cent after dark.

– See original article at: