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An urban world forum

FORUM / Urbanism is often about building bridges and removing contradictions. Here are some examples from the World Forum in Katowice, Poland, of how cities can safeguard women's safety and security


The mayor of Katowice in southern Poland, Marcin Krupa, already set the tone for this year's World Urban Forum (WUF) in June in his opening speech. He stated the following: "Let us not distinguish between the strong and the weak, those with abilities and those without. Rather, let's distinguish between those who want to learn and those who don't."

My lessons after five active WUF days with many meetings and conversations are several. The focus in this text is particularly on women's safety and security.

Security after nightfall

At the network event on safety, it was emphasized that safety and security are two different concepts. The first means having the freedom to choose what you want. The second to keep unwanted elements away.

The European Forum for City Safety (EFUS) has drawn up the guidelines "Safer Cities for All. Night Urban Audit Walks”. Their starting point is that it is important to focus on what you want more of, not the opposite. Nightlife exists to bring people together. Accordingly, provision must be made for it.

The Covid-19 shutdowns destroyed much of the nightlife around the world. IN Sidney they have subsequently tried to spread nightlife throughout the city centre. The voluntary organization Take Care contributes to the safety of vulnerable groups at night.

I Montreal do you want to destigmatise the city's nightlife. They follow four strategies: night council; participants from the business world; to financially support cultural initiatives; to map "best practices". They carry out pilot projects with a 24-hour liquor licence. Purpose: to spread the crowd and alcohol consumption throughout the day.

Measures that reduce damage are also necessary. IN Vilnius Forum for Urban Security has created a "Not just a bar" standard. It covers measures against drug use, measures for peace and order, cultural measures, accessibility for all, measures against harassment and more.

I Mannheim city, they have created a socio-pedagogical strategy to get people talking to each other. The goal is to build bridges and remove contradictions. Examples of other measures are "cultural trams" and "night owls". The result has been fewer incidents and less noise.

In Berlin, LGBTQ and black feminism are the basis for an "Awareness Academy" which, among other things, organizes "sexism-free nights".

 I Paris a separate "city council for nightlife" has been set up which, among other things, organizes stargazing and various cultural activities.

I Storbritannia have long had an "Association for safe management of the city", while in Berlin LGBTQ and black feminism are the basis for an "Awareness Academy" which, among other things, arranges "sexism-free nights".

The debate after the presentations showed that the experiences from western, post-industrial cities are of little relevance to cities in Latin America and Asia. Here, women don't go out in the evening, it gives them a bad reputation.

Conclusion: "Management at night has to be very horizontal, not hierarchical. Urban design must be 'agile'."

"URBACT": what is a gender-equal city?

The event with URBACT was, among other things, about how public procurement processes take the gender dimension into account. Basque Country and Vienna are good at this. In Austria's capital, the challenge is current in connection with transport services and outdoor activities – for example outdoor gyms. It is taken into account that measures should apply to both users and service providers – for example when it comes to equal pay and opportunities for advancement, as well as anti-sexism/bullying in the working environment. In Vienna, the municipality's suppliers must sign an agreement. It states that they must promote jobs for women, facilitate skills building for women and ensure a balance between work and leisure time by offering part-time work. As well as having routines that prevent dominance techniques and bullying. It is crucial to assess which conditions must be taken care of in the individual's situation before the procurement process is started. High- and low-paid services are assessed equally carefully. The European Institute of Gender Equality has relevant information.

URBACT is a European exchange and cooperation program that promotes sustainable urban development. It consists of 550 cities, 30 countries and 7000 active local actors.

Women's reforms in Bogotá

The mayor of Bogotá, Maria-Mercedes Jaramillo, introduced the new municipal plan for Bogota, which is the capital of Colombia. After many years of civil war between different groups, she described it as a "hard and military city". When it got its first female mayor, work began on a new municipal plan based on "care for vulnerable groups". The transport offer and the importance of urban spaces for women were highlighted as particularly important.

In Bogotá, few women have a bicycle or access to a car. Many people walk a lot, but even that can be risky. That is why the municipality has created its own "Round trip routes for women" to inform about where and how they can travel safely. The municipal plan identifies 46 care blocks/neighborhoods where services have been arranged so that it is safe to get around on foot ("walkable space"). There will be "30 cities within the city" based on socio-cultural distinctiveness ("local heritage identities"). Five metro lines and five cable cars are planned.

The latest thing that has happened, however, is that a male politician has scrapped the whole plan. Which is frustrating both for those who have worked on it and everyone in civil society who wants to see it implemented.


Conclusion: Few Norwegian municipalities participated in Katowice. Perhaps this short presentation of the many ideas and visions that emerged will inspire better participation at the next WUF in Cairo, Egypt (2024). The forum is open to everyone.

Ellen from Vibe
Ellen de Vibe
De Vibe is a former head of urban planning in Oslo. Board member of Habitat Norway.

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