Safe Cities
General Guidance
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Ensure that safety policies are implemented using a gender approach

Last edited: October 30, 2010

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Implement actions to provide services for women who have experienced violence in addition to actions aimed at preventing violence and promoting women’s rights.

For women to feel safe in cities, it is essential that governments ensure that women and girls who are victims of violence can access treatment services. Examples of victim assistance services include: the provision of assistance centres, specialized health services, legal support and access to justice, among others. It is essential that strategies be comprehensive and consider not only the provision of treatment, but also the prevention of violence and the promotion of women and girls’ human rights.

Under the rubric of ‘safe cities’ advocacy initaitves in some cities, governments have instituted expanded services for survivors and perpetrators’. Some illustrative examples are provided below.  For information on services for survivors in general, see other modules on this site and also search the tools database.


Case Study: Programa de Violencia de Género – Área de la Mujer, Rosario. (Gender-based Violence Programme, Department of Women's Affairs – Rosario, Argentina).

The main goal of the gender-based policies developed and implemented by the Women’s Affairs Department of the Municipality of Rosario is to work towards eliminating family violence as soon as possible. It is an example of a holistic policy that simultaneously addresses the response to survivors and prevention of violence. The City of Rosario has expanded the services provided to women and girls who have experienced violence, with the government offering primary care services provided by an inter-disciplinary team in the six districts of the city, and two shelters for women and their children. Furthermore, a free telephone service, called the Green Phone, has been introduced and allows women and girls to report abuse. The service is operational Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 7 PM. Professionals from the Department of Women’s Affairs of the Municipal Government of the city of Rosario (psychologists, lawyers), all of whom have received training in violence against women, are responsible for answering the calls. The Green Phone provides advice as well as legal and psychological support to women who have experienced violence through direct assistance. These same skilled professionals also provide follow-up support. Additional initiatives related to violence prevention and women's rights were carried out in the framework of the programme: massive information campaigns focusing on specific issues around gender-based violence; workshops; seminars; and training sessions for civil society, women’s organizations, public officials and technical staff working for the municipality.

Source: From page 55 – 59 of “Construyendo Equidad. 20 años del Área Mujer”, by Área de la Mujer. Municipio de Rosario. Argentina. 2008.  (Women’s Affairs Department: “Building Equality. 20 Years of the Women’s Affairs Department”. Municipality of Rosario. Argentina. 2008. Available in Spanish

Case Study: Programa el Valor de las Mujeres. Municipalidad de Solidaridad, Estado Quintana Roo, México. Programa de Atención integral a receptores de violencia y rehabilitación a los agresores (The Women’s Value Programme, Municipality of Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Programme for the comprehensive care of women who have experienced violence and for the rehabilitation of aggressors). This municipal programme established different actions aimed at responding to violence, violence prevention, and the promotion of women’s rights. Staying within an empowerment approach, the municipal initiative Calle por calle y ciudades educadoras (Street by street and educational cities) works to improve the quality of life for women and the broader community by assisting women in obtaining professional qualifications, providing employment opportunities and/or funding opportunities, and importantly, it creates space for women’s action and decision-making. In order to offer comprehensive care for women who have experienced violence, two Women’s Care Centres were established. Specific services offered in the Care Centres include psychological counselling, legal advice, help with procedures in social units, medical attention, provision of a safe place to stay, training courses, workshops on personal development and art therapy. With inter-institutional support, two supplementary programmes called “Women’s Safety” and “Opportunities for Women” were implemented in the Women’s Care Centres. These programmes aim to build the capacities of women who have experienced violence by enabling them to break the cycles of silence and violence by freeing themselves from associated risks. This comprehensive programme was named one of the winners of the IV Regional Contest. "Safer Cities for Women and Girls" organized by UNIFEM in March 2008.

Source: From pages 23-24 of Women’s Safety. A shared global concern. Compendium of Practices and Policies (2008). Available in English , Spanish and French .


Case Study: Clínica Móvil para víctimas de violencia sexual. Médicos Sin Fronteras (Mobile Clinic for Victims of Sexual Violence.  Doctors without Borders) (Guatemala).

This project emerged within the framework of the National Protocol for Attention to Victims of Sexual Violence, developed by the Ministry of Health of Guatemala.  The initiative is being carried out in Area 18 of Guatemala City, one of the neighbourhoods most affected by violence, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Sexual violence against women increases as a result of their greater vulnerability to urban violence and poverty. The team offers access to psychological services and reproductive health services in a mobile primary attention and maternity clinic made available by the Health Ministry to women and girls who have experienced sexual violence. In collaboration with other local NGOs, Doctors Without Borders provides services to the entire city from a mobile unit located on the street, thereby ensuring easy access. The initiative also works to raise awareness and sensitize the community about violence and the importance of ensuring that victims of violence receive specialized attention. This example shows the importance of taking into account the multiple factors involved in addressing women’s safety and taking a holistic approach to addressing the problem. Available in Spanish.



 Case Study: The Glove Project, ‘Making Links..Public Private Violence’ Victoria, Australia.

The Glove Project is a research project that was carried out in Victoria, Australia from 2006 to 2009. Its aim was to develop policies for Australian local governments that take an integrated approach to violence prevention in both public and private spaces, using a gender mainstreaming process and a community-government partnership model. Researchers from the University of Melbourne analyzed local government community safety policies in relation to international good practices on violence prevention, and worked with four local government/agency partners in Victoria to develop and evaluate integrated violence prevention programmes. In the final phase of the project, lessons from these case studies were used to inform training materials and workshops for local government officials, community agencies, urban planners and health professionals.

More information is available in English from Jagori.




Bogotà sin violencia hacia las mujeres: Un desafío posible:  Retos de las políticas de seguridad ciudadana y convivencia desde un enfoque de género (Bogota without violence against women: A possible challenge: policy challenges for public security and coexistence from a gender perspective) (2010). This publication outlines and discusses the challenges of developing and implementing policies to prevent and eliminate violence against women, within the context of Bogota. The paper outlines 5 key challenge areas, including: cultural understandings of gender and violence against women; urban planning and design; institutionalizing and mainstreaming gender and security policies; gender mainstreaming statistical data; and incorporating a gendered approach within the judicial system. Available in Spanish.


Use affirmative action to promote departments, resources and services dedicated to addressing violence against women.

Affirmative action is intended to neutralize, correct and eliminate direct and indirect discrimination against women. They are are corrective actions aimed at overcoming situations of discrimination and inequality faced by women in regards to their needs and rights. Means for prioritizing and addressing situations of discrimination against women can include the allocation of resources for specific programmes for women, or the establishment of quotas for accessing certain benefits or services (Rainero; Rodigou; Pérez. 2006). An example of an affirmative action is the establishment of quotas in public housing programmes that guarantee a minimum number of housing units for women who have experienced violence and who have dependent children. Through affirmative action, municipal governments should promote resources and any other type of prevention and assistance services that address the specific nature of violence against women. It is important that all organizations, departments and people responsible for carrying out these efforts receive training on violence against women and safe cities and communities. Examples of resources that can be made available to confront violence against women are police stations staffed by women, emergency telephone services, shelters for at-risk women and support centres.

Case Study: Family Violence Prevention Programme - Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Jointly developed by the police department, the municipal administration, and the city council of Charlottetown, the Family Violence Prevention Programme of Charlottetown was recognized by Women in Cities International as a best practice in the 2004 Women’s Safety Awards. The City of Charlottetown aims to be an ambassador in consciousness-raising, education, prevention, and intervention in family violence at the municipal level.  The overall goal of all of the activities related to the Family Violence Prevention Programme is to impart knowledge to managers, supervisors, and other municipal employees regarding their role and responsibility in stopping family violence in their community.  This analysis resulted in the creation of the Turning the Tide on Family Violence Programme. This programme emphasizes adopting a holistic approach to consciousness-raising and community education around issues of family violence. It works to facilitate associations between government agencies and the volunteer sector, strengthen the regulatory framework and the municipality’s human resources, and draw on citizen support and feedback through presentations made accessible to the community via the Internet and other media. Available in English.


 A gender-based approach must cross-cut the municipal agenda.

Include and involve different municipal departments in the design and implementation of programmes and actions that address violence against women. Gender-responsive municipal policies require commitment from all municipal sectors. Different actors representing different sectors should therefore come together to discuss the development and implementation of such strategies. It is important for these actors and sectors to work together in order to avoid segregating and isolating issues of concern to women within a specific department and branch. This also ensures that a comprehensive approach to making cities safer and more inclusive of women and girls is taken by the municipal government. Specific branches of government that should be involved include those dedicated to urban safety, social issues, public works and transportation, housing and urban planning, justice, health, education, and employment. It is important that when considering gender-responsive policies, each of these departments take steps to improve women’s access to and use of their services.



 Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, Montreal, Canada. In Montreal, the municipal government has adopted a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. This charter outlines the rights and responsibilities of all people living in the city. The document binds citizens as well as public workers to these rights and responsibilities. The charter specifically acknowledges that women have unique needs in the city, including safety needs. As such, the city, its public and all of its departments are required to acknowledge women’s and girl’s unique experiences of the city and to respect these experiences in all decision-making processes. The Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities is available in English and French.


The Town for Equality: A Methodology and Good Practices for Equal Opportunities Between Women and Men (Council of European Municipalities and Regions, 2005). European Commission – DG Employment and Social Affairs. This guide, directed mainly at municipal officers, provides suggestions for municipal policies and actions to increase equal opportunities between men and women in several areas of urban life. These areas include local decision-making, municipal administration, statistical information, municipal budgets, urban planning, transportation, housing, education, employment, health, sports, and more. Tips and suggestions are given based on research. Chapter 3, “Taking equality into consideration in all areas of municipal action”, describes how to mainstream gender into different local government units (organization, spatial planning, intra city transport and housing, education, integration of minorities, security and responding to all forms of violence). It also includes different actions and policies adopted by governments of various countries worldwide. Available in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.


Coordinate action between different government branches.

The effectiveness of local policies on furthering gender equality requires communication and collaboration between various branches of the local government, as well as between different levels of government (e.g. local, provincial/regional/sub-national, national). This ensures that the action will benefit from optimal coordination and deployment of full institutional capacities available. This also means that there will be more resources for coordinated municipal action, since the municipal actions will be grounded in a larger government framework. To make sure that these different branches are building off of the work of one another, it is important to create mechanisms to ensure ongoing communication and coordination between the various departments. The different departments involved will benefit from the sharing of experiences and knowledge. Different departments that will likely be included are: urban planning, women’s affairs or gender departments, transportation, social development, and others. Ensuring ongoing communication and coordination means that the concrete actions for addressing violence against women carried out by the different branches and offices of the municipal and state structures are linked and strengthen one another, thereby ensuring a holistic approach to the issue.



Registro Central de Abuso Sexual. (Central Sexual Abuse Registry). Bogotá, Colombia. The Registry consolidates official information on sexual offences in general and, in particular, on convictions for crimes against the freedom, integrity and the sexual development of girls, boys and teenagers. Information is continuously organized and updated in the database. The objective of the Central Registry is to characterize these crimes as a means to develop better-informed public policies for preventing and responding to sexual violence. Available in Spanish.


Case Study: L’Observatoire départemental des violences envers des femmes (Departmental Observatory on Violence against Women) Seine-Saint-Denis, France.

The Observatory was created in 2002 and it is the first of its kind in France. It supports the collaborative work of its partners and seeks to raise awareness on the importance of ending violence against women. As an initiative of the Conseil général de la Seine-Saint-Denis, the Observatory serves many functions. Specifically, it is a place of exchange and reflection, an analytical and statistical tool, and a vehicle for communication and the dissemination of information. It was created to respond to the lack of communication and coordination between the many organizations and departments in France that work on issues related to violence against women. It is hoped that the Observatory will lead to more coordinated and better-informed actions to prevent and eradicate gender-based violence. The Observatory has resulted in greater visibility of the problem of violence against women in France and has resulted in better resources being provided to organizations and departments working on these issues. In addition to assessing the scope of the phenomenon, the Observatory proposes concrete actions and solutions to address the problem. An example of this is the creation of a protocol to help victims of forced marriage. A strategic system for providing support to the victims was implemented in the department with the assistance of specialized associations, national educational professionals, professionals from the municipal health and education offices, crown attorneys and family court judges. The Protocol became law in April 2006. This new law explicitly recognizes that consent is a prerequisite for marriage, as well as for all sexual relations, including those between married couples. Available in French.

To view additional observatories from different parts of the world, see the tools database and filter for categories, then observatories.


“Local Government and Women’s Voices” in Women and Community Safety: A Resource Book on Planning for Safer Communities (Cowichan Women Against Violence Society, 2002): Section 3, pages 17-36. This chapter highlights the importance of the role of local government and public policy in building safe cities for women and girls.  It contains recommendations, examples, and a questionnaire directed at local government to evaluate how different municipal departments address safe cities for women in their actions, politics, and programmes. Available in English and French.