Safe Cities
General Guidance
Related Tools

Develop strategies to be inclusive of local government and civil society

Last edited: October 30, 2010

This content is available in


When a safe cities for women programme is initiated from within the community, it is important to include the local government whenever possible.

If partnerships are not initiated by local governments, safe cities for women programmes should take care to present all plans and findings to relevant public officials and policy-makers. This way, governments are involved from the beginning. In communities where building partnerships with the government is difficult, safe cities for women programme partners can advocate by emphasizing to the government possible  partnership benefits, such as fewer policing and health care costs, greater community involvement and safety for women and everyone (WICI, 2007, 10). It should be noted, however, that there are places where partnerships cannot be formed between women’s organizations and local governments because local governments may be unsympathetic or antagonistic towards community groups and/or gendered initiatives. In these cases, it may be advisable for safe cities programme partners to work on strengthening partnerships with other organizations, service providers, and private entrepreneurs in order to build a large coalition that can work to engage or change a local government’s position.

Develop a strategy for building a partnership with the local government.

Programme partners should develop a plan for approaching local government to initiate a partnership. The plan should also consider how to sustain a partnership after it has been created. It is important that the municipality understand how they can benefit from forming a partnership with a safe cities for women programme. Here are some steps safe cities for women programme partners to take as part of a strategy for approaching local government:

Do your homework first;

  • Know their election and policy platforms [Has the local government promised to reduce crime? Increase women’s equality? Improve a local area that has been diagnosed as unsafe?]
  • Know the burning issues [What issues related to women’s and girls’ safety are already being discussed within the community – an increase in crime? Increased violence among youths? A lack of policies addressing gender?]
  • Choose your likely supporters [Are there individuals or departments within the government that have already taken action on women’s rights? Community safety? Accessible public transportation?]

Understand their position;

  • Give them something that will work for them [Can a safe cities for women partnership offer positive publicity? Increased funding from another level of government?]
  • Do the background work for them. What are the main safety problems for women and girls in the community? In what areas do women and girls feel the least safe? What kinds of violence do women and girls face every day in their community – and to what extent?]
  • Give them options [Can they commit to reviewing documents? Issuing a public statement on women’s safety? Creating a certain policy? Researching possibilities for changing urban planning regulations?]

Acknowledge small steps;

  • Thank councils collectively for smaller steps
  • Thank individual councilors
  • Even if you only get a quarter of what you want, consider it a victory and acknowledge it as such

Relationships, relationships, relationships;

  • These need nurturing, over time
  • Personal relationships are critical

Source: Women in Cities International. 2007. Building Community-Based Partnerships for Local Action on Women’s Safety. Women in Cities International/Femmes et villes international, Canada: page 10. Available in English and French.



Building Community-based Partnerships for Local Action on Women's Safety (Women in Cities International, 2007). Women in Cities International/Femmes et villes international, Canada  This tool is a guide for community-based women’s groups to create partnerships with their local municipal government for creating safer communities. The guide gives specific consideration to the particular characteristics of community-based women’s groups and municipal governments, as well as the importance and challenges in creating partnerships between the two. The guide is based on six Canadian case studies and provides programme design, monitoring and evaluation templates and guidance to enable others to plan and implement similar programming in their own community.  Available in English and French.

Local to Local Dialogue: A Grassroots Women's Perspective on Good Governance (United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Huairou Commission, 2004). UN-HABITAT and Huairou Commission. This guide outlines the local-to-local dialogue process. A local-to-local dialogue is a strategy, designed by grassroots women, that helps them have meaningful discussion and negotiations with local leaders. This process is meant to enhance the capacities of grassroots women's organizations at the community and local governance level. Collective action, capacity-building, alliance-building, and capacity engagement are encouraged. International case studies are offered to demonstrate how local to local dialogues have been instituted in different settings.  Available in English.

Inviting Partners to Partner: Creating a Partnership Learning Model and Code of Conduct (Leavitt, J., 2002). Huairou Commission.  This is a guide for grassroots women's organizations and their partners on how to create and formalize a partnership that provides equal benefits and learning for all involved. The guide includes an overview of different kinds of partnerships and provides "The Partnership Code of Conduct". This code is a framework that different safe cities for women programme partners can review and agree upon in order to ensure that everyone involved understands the abilities and beliefs of everyone else.  Available in English.


Government-initiated safe cities for women programmes should use special strategies to reach out to women and the community.

For safe cities for women programmes that were started by governments, it is critically important to involve local community organizations, especially women’s grassroots groups, from the very beginning. This is because local community groups are closely affiliated with and run by local citizens, who are the main focus of any safe cities for women programme. For example, the government of New Zealand implemented a programme that created approximately 60 safer community councils between the years 1993-1999, through engagement of local government with indigenous local councils. (Whitzman, 2008b, p. 132). For their part, municipal governments may have to make a special effort to engage local women and women’s organizations in a safe cities partnership. Women require partners to respect their unique perspectives and schedules. They also need to be able to speak their mind in places that are accessible and where they feel safe (Michaud, 2004, 38). Therefore, municipal governments should ensure that women know that they will be full partners and that their needs will be accommodated in a safe cities for women programme.

Case Study: Building Partnerships with Women’s Groups in Bogotá.

In Bogotá, various local and district-level strategies have been used to build partnerships with different women’s groups.  At the district level, for example, the Women’s Consultation Council was identified as being a strategic ally, since it is a place where women are consulted about the plans and actions launched by the Mayor’s office and local government departments.  Additionally, the Territorial Planning Council, a mixed council made up of civil society delegates that work on topics related to city development and planning, was identified as an excellent partner.  The Territorial Planning Council is divided into sectors. One of these is the women’s sector, which permits the inclusion of female representatives in the Council. This was done in the framework of the UNIFEM Regional Programme “Cities without Violence against Women, Safe Cities for All”, executed by Women and Habitat Network Latin America.


Increasing Women's Participation in Municipal Decision-Making: Strategies for More Inclusive Canadian Communities (Michaud, A., 2004). Federation of Canadian Municipalities. This guide was developed for municipal governments and service providers to encourage the political participation of women citizens. This tool defines equality and inclusion as they pertain to municipal governance. It also addresses knowledge capacity, accessibility, consultation, leadership, partnership and gender mainstreaming issues. The meaning of gender in relation to good governance is explored and additional tools and resources are provided. Available in English and French.