Keeping cities safe
In an impoverished area of Quezon City, in the Philippines, Teresita Longcanaya accompanies her 26-year-old daughter to the local tricycle stand every morning on her way to work and meets her every evening to accompany her home. The risk of sexual harassment on the streets here is very real—men even grope women and girls while robbing them.
For a long time, this was simply the reality that women had to live with. But change is coming through UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Flagship Initiative. It has helped Quezon City take the first step towards safer streets: a scoping study that collects information on violence against women and girls in public spaces.
The study, drawing in part on safety audits, where women and men, girls and boys walk through neighbourhoods to identify safe and unsafe spaces, revealed a number of issues that had long remained unnoticed, such as insufficient legal protection and fear of retaliation from reporting crimes. Police were not recording cases of sexual harassment in public spaces because the current anti-harassment law mainly covers places of employment and education. Local officials are now fully aware of the steps they need to take to create a safer city and are moving to revise laws and policies.
Quezon City is just one of 23 cities around the world working with UN Women, local governments, women's rights organizations and other partners to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in public spaces. Other cities include New Delhi, Rabat, New York, Medellin, Port Moresby and, more recently, Brussels in 2015. Kigali enhanced the capacities of public transport workers to prevent sexual harassment.
A global conference in New Delhi in 2015 brought together over 140 participants from 24 countries. Based on accumulating experiences and evidence of strategies that work, they agreed on a series of recommendations, such as to include gender across all public safety and public transport policies, to broaden women’s access to technology to prevent and respond to violence in public spaces, and to promote changes in attitudes and behaviours among men and boys.