Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault and Women’s Right to the City: Lessons from the Gender Inclusive Cities Programme

Dr. Sohail Husain
Analytica Consulting

GICP was a 3-year programme to promote change that would enable women to enjoy equal access to public spaces and exercise their right to the city. Funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women from 2009-11 and with NGO-led projects in Argentina, India, Russia and Tanzania, it focused on reducing sexual harassment and assault. Evidence collected indicates these are global problems and a powerful restriction on women’s freedom, the effect of which is intensified when gender intersects with factors associated with marginalisation or disadvantage, such as ethnicity or homelessness. There is however little recognition of the problem by men, public institutions or services that have a central role in tackling it. GICP aimed to change this by increasing awareness of the problem, changing individual attitudes and behaviours, and influencing the ways cities are planned, managed and serviced.

GICP had three inter-related workstreams. The first involved compilation of a persuasive evidence base to show the nature, scale and consequences of the problem. The second was the involvement of local women to identify needs, develop initiatives and exert influence on others. The third was the establishment of partnerships with key stakeholders, such as local government, to deliver interventions. It has shown that small civil society organisations can play a vital role in delivering interventions and that there are additional benefits for women if NGOs adopt a feminist approach that is consciousness-raising and empowering. However, improvements, which depend on changes by women, men and institutions, require longer-term support if they are to be sustained.

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