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Develop safety policies with a gender focus

Last edited: October 30, 2010

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Highlight the fact that violence against women is a socio-cultural problem.  Gender-responsive crime prevention policies must look at all of the factors that make women and girls feel insecure in their communities. Feelings of insecurity in cities and communities do not stem from crime and violence alone; these feelings are related to a combination of factors including social, economic, cultural and domestic issues. Poverty, unemployment, urban violence, criminal activity, inequality between men and women, racism, xenophobia and related obstacles that hinder access to justice are just some of the factors that foster gender-based violence and women’s feelings of insecurity. It is important that public policies keep in mind that gender-based violence does not have one cause requiring only one response; but rather has multiple causes that require public policies to be comprehensive in order to address the multiple factors that allow for gender-based violence to continue.

Local governments should formally recognize women’s rights and incorporate a gender perspective into their structures. Governments can formally recognize the rights of women to live in a city free from violence in public and private spaces by adopting municipal legislation. By incorporating a gender approach into the norms, institutional practices and procedures, and structures of the local government, it demonstrates commitment on the part of the government to addressing gender-based violence and equality.


Case Study: Constitución de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. (Constitution of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires) Argentina.

Articles 36, 37 and 38 of the Constitution call for the incorporation of a gender perspective into the design and implementation of public policies, as well as the guarantee of equal opportunities for the treatment of men and women both in the public and the private spheres, and in relation to their access to and enjoyment of all rights through positive actions that enable them to be exercised effectively.  Available in Spanish.



Policy Examples:

Building Inclusive Cities and Communities: Delhi Declaration on Women’s Safety and Delhi Call to Action on Women’s Safety (2010). Delhi, India. This Declaration and Call to Action was created as a result of the Third International Conference on Women’s Safety, co-organized by Women in Cities International and Jagori. This document lays out the current context, challenges, best practices and way forward in relation to creating cities that are safe and inclusive for women. It also provides recommendations for different actors who should be involved in the creation of safe and inclusive cities for women, including: national and sub-regional governments; local governments, UN agencies and international organisations; NGOs; businesses and the prívate sector; donors; the media; universities; and research and training institutions. Available in English.   

Plan de Igualdad de Oportunidades y Trato para Varones y Mujeres.  2006 – 2008. (Plan for Equal Opportunities and Treatment of Men and Women 2006-2008). Morón, Argentina. The Plan was first implemented as a gender policy and was then institutionalized within the local government. The Plan for Equal Opportunities was developed with the general objective of promoting and monitoring actions intended to integrate women’s opportunities and rights into the municipal structure, including those related to violence against women and safe cities.  As a first step in developing the Plan for Equal Opportunities, a survey was conducted on gender roles and identified the issues considered to be problematic by the women and men of Morón. Building on the results of the survey, a series of assessment workshops, meetings and debates were held to identify strategies, goals and actions to address these problems. This resulted in the articulation of goals and actions in 2008. These were then grouped in seven thematic chapters: work and employability; health; communications and non-sexist language; violence and human rights; citizen participation; use of time; and urban management. The Plan is monitored by the Municipal Council of Women, a consultative and participatory body based on plurality, horizontality and democratic participation. Available in Spanish.

The European Charter for Women in the City (1995). The European Charter for Women in the City contains a series of concrete proposals, laid out in a 12-point Declaration. The Charter can be put into practice in order to take into account and to promote increasingly active citizenship by women in regional and town planning as a whole. The Charter focuses on five priority themes: Town Planning and Environment, Mobility, Social Safety, Housing, and Strategies (Heiler, et al., no date). Available in DanishDutch, English, Finnish, French , Italian, Portuguese  and Spanish.

The Montréal Declaration on Women's Safety (2002). The First International Seminar on Women's Safety, held in Montréal in May 2002, culminated in the launch of the «Montréal Declaration on Women's Safety» on June 25, 2002. The Declaration is a call to all those concerned: women, men, community organizations, NGO's, cities and municipalities, governments and international organizations, etc., to take action. The Montréal Declaration was intended to serve as a yardstick for measuring progress in the coming years, on local and international levels (Women in Cities International, 2003). Available in English, French and Spanish.

 Protocolo de Actuación Policial ante casos de mujeres víctimas de malos tratos de la Policía Local de Fuenlabrada (Protocol for Police Action for Dealing with Cases of Mistreatment of Women Victims for the Local Fuenlabrada Police) (Spain).  In the framework of the “Fuenlabrada Programme for Comprehensive Attention to Female Victims of Maltreatment”, the Fuenlabrada Police Department drafted a Protocol to formalize and standardize the type of response and attention to be given to women victims of violence. It is hoped that the Protocol will help local police provide quality public service and be accountable to citizens.  The Protocol calls for coordination between different municipal sectors and with other public entities. The person responsible for the Reports and Complains Unit will work with the victim to evaluate the specific situation and the potential danger for the victim. Based on this assessment, they will decide on the most appropriate protective measures for the police department to adopt. They will also inform the Justice Department and Social Services Department of the decisions made and action to be taken.  This is an excellent example of a Protocol that has been implemented for many years with proven results. The Protocol put interdepartmental cooperation at the centre by explicitly outlining the actions that different government bodies are responsible for, which reflects the commitment of the government to ensuring appropriate support be given to victims of violence. In a safe cities for women programme, it is important to have the support of police staff. It is also important to make sure that they aware of the different dimensions of gender-based violence since the police often provide assistance and support to women victims of violence, as this example demonstrates. Available in Spanish.  

 Protocolo de Actuación de la Guardia Urbana Municipal (GUM) para prevenir y atender situaciones de violencia y maltrato hacia las mujeres en la ciudad (Protocol for Action of the Municipal Urban Guard to prevent and respond to situations of violence and abuse towards women in the city), Rosario, Argentina (2008).The Municipal Urban Guard (GUM) has the objective of promoting better safety mechanisms in the city through prevention, education, citizen participation and the strict application of municipal regulations. Accordingly, the Municipal Urban Guard represents a strategic approach in the development of tools for preventing violence against women in cities and providing emergency attention and services to those who experience violence. It has a privileged institutional role regarding attention to violence, the containment and the resolution of conflicts that involve violence, as well as transgressions of existing regulations. In relation to this objective, and considering women’s experiences in the city as a specific issue, the City of Rosario made a commitment to preventing these situations of violence and to providing attention and services to women who experience violence. Taken directly from the Protocol for Action of the Municipal Urban Guard (GUM) to prevent and respond to situations of violence and abuse towards women in the city.  Available in Spanish.

Consider the responsibility of different actors in the design and implementation of safety policies.

Politics is interaction between societal and state actors, each with particular interests and key resources that can be used to respond to specific questions (Repetto, 1999).  These actors participate in many stages of policy development and implementation.  In the implementation phase, actors are neither neutral nor passive, rather they play active roles and intervene (Burijovich; 2005). An urban safety policy should consider the responsibilities of these different actors in the design and implementation of public policies. Specific actors that should be included in a policy process include local governments and their different departments (guaranteeing the inclusion of women’s affairs departments or gender department), civil society organizations, and women's organizations. Local governments must include a gender approach in all parts of the policy-making process: baseline assessment, collection of sex-disaggregated data, goal formulation, and programme and project implementation.

For instance, the Municipal Urban Guard (GUM) in Rosario, Argentina, are a group of actors who are trained in human rights and conflict mediation (link to example above). GUM agents do not make policies about women’s safety or violence against women, but they do help to implement these policies. For example, if a GUM agent hears an instance of violence against women occurring, he or she is trained to respond. If violence occurs within a home, GUM agents are authorized to respond by knocking at the door. If the situations of violence escalate, GUM agents contact the police (Panzerini, 2010).


Case Study: Capítulo 3: “Uso de la Ciudad desde la Perspectiva de Género”. Segundo Plan de Igualdad de Oportunidades y Trato para varones y mujeres. 2005 – 2009. Rosario, Argentina. (Chapter 3: “Use of the City from a Gender Perspective”. Second Plan for Equal Opportunities and Treatment of Men and Women 2005-2009).

The Second Plan for Equal Opportunities for Men and Women is a set of actions that aims to prevent and stop discrimination against women in the city of Rosario. More broadly, the Plan contributes to building a more democratic society that is increasingly more inclusive, just and equitable. The Plan identifies the following municipal actors as being responsible for and committed to its implementation: the Municipal Council, various municipal instances and departments, civil society organizations, political parties, women’s groups, and others. In Chapter 3, Use of the City from a Gender Perspective, specific issues are assigned to a designated municipal body, notably: ‘Women in the city and access to housing’ (Public Housing Service); ‘The democratization of public space’ (Ministry of Public Works); ‘Environmental Improvement’ (Ministry of Public Services); ‘Preservation of the Urban Environment’ (Ministry of Public Services, Bureau of Environmental Policy).

Available in Spanish.




Case Study: Prevención Maipú: Una comuna segura para todas y todos - Ilustre Municipalidad de Maipú, (Maipú Prevention: A Safe Community for Everybody) Santiago, Chile. 2005.

Maipú’s ‘Safe Family’ Programme assists victims and potential victims of family violence by providing support for young and adult women confronting situations of violence in both public and/or private spaces. The commitment of different municipal departments, notably the Citizen Security Unit and the Community Liaison Unit, helped to inform and engage the community and women in particular, in the programme’s implementation. This community engagement was essential in contributing to its effectiveness. One of the accomplishments of the programme is that it forges strategic alliances between various partners, including women’s networks, community organizations, and local government agencies, ensuring a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach. The initiative takes a rights-based approach and encourages citizens to know and fully exercise their rights to live in a safe city. The creation of Prevention Committees helped to organize the community around safety problems affecting women and girls. Through the programme, the women of Maipu have been empowered to overcome some of the challenges they face in what is largely a male-dominated space, and actively work to enhance their safety in the city. Women are now able to influence local authorities’ decisions-making processes. One area in which they have been especially effective has been influencing policy related to urban management of the district, and appropriate safety infrastructure in particular. This programme was named one of the three winners of the IV Regional Contest on Safer Cities for Women and Girls 2008, organized by UNIFEM. 

Available in Spanish.





Gender in Local Government - A Sourcebook for Trainers (Khosla, P. and B. Barth, 2008). United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Nairobi, Kenya. This manual is a resource for experienced facilitators to use when they are leading capacity building activities for local government. People who are likely to attend activities to develop capacity around women's rights and gender equality include elected officials, administrators, staff, and partner organizations. The book provides an introduction to its conceptual framework and purpose; a conceptual overview of equality and gender analysis; and a gender analysis of specific human settlements issues, including local government and violence against women.  Section 3, “Women, Gender and Local Governance”, identifies different actors and instances of local government, such as urban planners and public services, whose work is crucial to create safe cities for women. The sourcebook uses case studies and workshop exercises to complement training programmes. Available in English and Portuguese.


Empower women and create participatory spaces and mechanisms for them to voice their perspectives and demands with respect to public policies aimed at making cities safer for women and girls.

The ‘public’ in public policies implies incorporating citizen participation with equal opportunities for all (Burijovich; 2005). These spaces and mechanisms foster a new governance framework in which citizens participate in and make decisions related to public affairs. They enable women’s voices to be heard and give them a say in decision-making for public policy issues related to the promotion of their rights, the prevention of and responses to gender-based violence, and the building of safe cities. Because women know what does and does not affect them, they are in the best positions to advise on what can be done and inform the process of making cities safer. Local women should be invited into decision-making processes to hear their concerns and interests first-hand. Since some women may not feel comfortable engaging with public officials, resources for capacity-building for groups of local women should be allocated so that they are able to fully participate in the decision-making process. Engaging with local women’s organizations can also serve to identify what kinds of information  tools and training they need to participate effectively. Creating women-only advisory groups is another strategy that can be used to ensure that women feel safe and confident in expressing themselves on safety issues, and is also a way of ensuring that their voices translate into municipal policies.                    


Case Study: Agenda de Incidencia. Grupo Focal de Mujeres de la Localidad de Suba. Colombia. (2008) (Advocacy Agenda Developed by the Suba Women’s Focus Group, Suba, Columbia)

This document outlines the participatory mechanisms that led to the development of the Advocacy Agenda by the Suba Women’s Focus Group. It describes the process by which leaders from community organizations in Suba were trained to identify unsafe places and the causes and consequences of this lack of safety. These were then used by the women to develop proposals for subsequent political advocacy to address these issues. The Advocacy Agenda resulted in seven proposals for different interventions and advocacy strategies for making Suba safer for women. Each proposal clearly defines objectives, actions, and responsible parties, and is intended to inform public policy, ensuring that it encompasses a gender perspective. Specifically, the seven proposed strategies are:

 At the local level:

> Ensure safe public spaces for women (block off unused and vacant land, lighting, maintenance, signage, and surveillance, among others).

At the district level:

> Ensure safe public transport for women;

>Put forth an agreement between the district and the national government to create and confer a mandate to the community, civic, and environmental police for the prevention and control of violence against women in public spaces;

Include the problem of violence against women in public spaces in the different government departments and services that provide assistance to women who have experienced violence;

>Expand women's autonomy and empowerment of local women's organizations.

At the national level:

> Support and follow up on the Holistic Violence Bill;

> Create alliances and agree upon initiatives for the development and implementation of a law on non-sexist media and advertising.

The Advocacy Agenda was developed within the framework of the UNIFEM Regional Programme “Cities without Violence against Women, Safe Cities for All”, implemented by the Women and Habitat Network of Latin America and the Caribbean.  Available in Spanish.


Case Study: Advisory Council of Women. Bogotá, Colombia.
The Advisory Council for Women is a technical and political entity that represents the needs and interests of women who live in the capital city. The Council acts as a coordinating body between women’s organizations in Bogotá and the district-level administration. The Advisory council was organized in accordance with a public policy framework focused on women and gender. The Council is made up of 25 representatives of local women’s groups and 11 members of political and administrative authorities of the city. The Council aims to serve as a space for conceptual analysis on issues related to public policy focused on women and gender aimed at eradicating the inequality and discrimination that women experience based on their gender.  Available in Spanish.       Case Study: Atlanta Women’s Agenda. Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America. The Atlanta Women’s Agenda (AWA) is an initiative of Mayor Shirley Franklin. It was organized to bring to light issues affecting women and to mobilize the community for change.  AWA gives voice to the women of Atlanta by emphasizing the problems they face and by working to develop solutions to the problems in the community. AWA requests support from strategic partners, such as the League of Women Voters of Atlanta/Foulton, who can contribute to the development and implementation of responses to these problems. The Atlanta Women’s Agenda receives support from the Advisory Council, which is made up of a cross-section of the community. The Mayor invites individuals to serve on the Council and engage in planning activities, generating ideas, developing resources and sustaining monitoring and evaluation efforts. The Advisor to the Mayor of Atlanta on Women's Affairs Policies is in charge of coordinating and developing the Atlanta Women’s Agenda. Available in English.



Case Study: Mapa de la ciudad prohibida para las mujeres. (Map of the Forbidden City for Women) Municipality of Basauri, Spain.

The Map of the Forbidden City for Women was developed as part of a campaign against violence against women, organized by the Equal Opportunities Unit of the Municipal Government of Basauri, Spain. The empowerment and participation of young women is one of the main goals of the campaign. The Map of the Forbidden City is an innovative tool used to engage local women and girls to identify the main problems or challenges they face in the city. It was women's and girls’ perceptions of safety and insecurity in public spaces in Basauri that informed the development of the map. A major focus was to identify those places and routes where young women feel unsafe at night. To this end, meetings and workshops were held to develop the map, thus allowing for the visual representation of those places. Available in Spanish.





Women's Lobby Kit: Diverse Women Influencing the City of Ottawa (City for All Women Initiative/Initiative; une ville pour tout les femmes, Canada, 2004). The goal of this guide is to help women to influence municipal decision-making. It explains the structure of a Canadian city council and how a municipal budget works. It details the lobbying process and provides tools for women to lobby their own representatives. It provides a step-by-step description of and simple recommendations for the process through which women can participate in decision-making with their local government. Available in English and French.

 Guide for Municipalities to Increase Women’s Participation in Consultation Processes in Increasing Women’s Participation in Municipal Decision-making Processes: Strategies for More Inclusive Canadian Communities. A Resource Kit. FCM, Canada. Through a series of recommendations directed at local government, this guide seeks to strengthen the mechanisms that guarantee the participation of women in decision-making processes. It states that women’s participation must be meaningful, relevant, inclusive, and supported by policy for it to be effective and taken seriously.  It also details a series of actions for municipalities and women’s organizations to take into account when including women in policy processes. Available in English:

Our Views Matter! Diversity of Women Influencing the City of Ottawa (City for All Women Initiative, 2007). City for All Women Initiative, Initiative – une ville pour toutes les femmes and City of Ottawa, Canada. This brochure provides women and women's organizations with advice on how to participate in municipal life. Topics covered include municipal government structure, possibilities for women's contributions, strategies for voicing opinions, instructions for presenting to a standing committee, instructions for meeting with a city councillor, and other tips for communicating with and influencing local government. This brochure focuses specifically on the city of Ottawa, Canada; however, safe cities for women programme partners can use the information to influence municipal officials on issues of safety in any city. Available in English, French, Spanish, Kinya-rwanda, Somali, Arabic and Chinese.


Involve vulnerable groups and consider different forms of violence in public spaces when developing public policies.

Examples of various vulnerable groups include girls; sex workers; women with disabilities; ethnic or racial minorities and immigrants; and lesbians, transgendered, etc. Members of these different groups experience crime and violence differently than other women, and the intersections of these different factors can increase their vulnerability. Building safe and inclusive cities for women and girls means considering how to make cities safer for women in all of their diversity. It is important to engage members of these different groups in developing policies for safe cities for women and girls.


Unidad de Diversidad Sexual (Sexual Diversity Unit). Bogotá, Colombia. This Unit is part of the Sub Department of Gender and Women’s Affairs of the District Department of Planning of the Municipal Government of Bogotá. Together with other district-level public agencies, the Sexual Diversity Unit guides and coordinates the monitoring and evaluation of public policies related to sexual diversity in the capital city. It also manages and implements plans, programmes, projects and mechanisms that contribute to the recognition of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population, and that adopt comprehensive and focused approaches for ensuring that all of their rights are respected. Available in Spanish.