Department for International Development Drivers of Urban Change
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Local Agenda 21


This section focuses on gender equality and empowerment. It includes provisions for the recognition of rights, mothers and child support schemes; basic service localisation; support for women in community activist and leadership roles, and innovative institutional practices mainstreaming gender equity in access to services and career opportunities.

quick links

local level city level
  international level websites

local level

Covenant Centre for Development (CCD) (n.d) - Women's Eye View - Small Change, Big deals - SSP [pdf]

The Covenant Centre for Development is a voluntary organization whose mission is to build people's institutions and empower them to address issues of economic security. CCD operates in eight blocks in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This area, otherwise known as Ramnad Plains suffers from severe drought. As a result small farmers who grow paddy in the wetlands and groundnuts in the drylands, rarely get both crops. So mass scale distress migration
to cities1 ill equipped to handle them (usually to Madurai) takes place. The poor farmers are then confronted with a new set of problems of marginalisation and survival in the unfamiliar city environment.This case study represents a combination of strategies. It addresses income-poverty of a network of 2,000 poor women; and provides the space for learning participation with an aim of building of capacities to sustain the very process of transformation.

Jaiyebo, Oluremi (2003) -" Women and household sustenance: changing livelihoods and survival strategies in the peri-urban areas of Ibadan" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol 15 No , April 2003 - IIED [pdf]

This paper describes the livelihoods and survival strategies of low income households in two peri-urban locations in Ibadan, drawing primarily on interviews with 96 women who sell goods from makeshift stalls or who live in poorquality houses. This includes reports of these women’s perceptions of poverty, their incomes (44 per cent earned less than US$ 1 per day) and the strategies they used to avoid poverty (for all, working longer hours; for most, having their children
engage in income-earning activities although, for most, this was after school or during holidays; and, for some, working in more than one business). Many had at one time farmed (mostly using “idle” land), but few now did so as the availability of land for farming had diminished.

Patel, Sheela & Burra Sundar (1998) - Making Cities Safe for Women and Children - SPARC [pdf]

India - The focus of this presentation is to explore a very simple phase….” What works for women and children works for society.” If women and children cutting across class and religion feel safe in cities, then those cities are safe. This is like a litmus test. And this is an invaluable foundation because unless there is safety and a feeling of being secure, there can be no growth and development that is worthwhile. Safe cities provide for strong growth and prosperity… and unless there is internal equity and social justice in cities, there can be no real safety.

Patel, Sheela (n.d) - Diary of a Pathbeater: Ensuring women’s leadership in community educational processes - SPARC [pdf]

India - The central role that poor women play in the survival strategies of their family and community has always been very obvious to those who have worked with poor settlements. Paradoxically welfare agencies have always treated women as "beneficiaries" or consumers of welfare, who have to be motivated, trained and changed.

Senner, Kathrin (2001) - Mukuru Recycling Centre - A Gender Evaluation - UN-HABITAT [pdf]

Kenya - Mukuru Recycling Centre (MRC) was established in 1991 with the engagement of two priests of Kariobangi Catholic Church to work for the improvement of the scavenging activities in the Dandora dumping ground t hrough reduction of exploitation by waste dealers operating around the dumpsite. The other main component of the Mukuru Recycling Centre consisted of the rehabilitation of the scavengers. A significant result of the project noted by this evaluation is the improvement in the development of livelihood, solidarity and tolerance among the group members and rehabilitation from alcohol and drug abuse. This result is largely due to the great work of the Kariobangi Catholic Church, the provision of technical support and waste management technologies by UNCHS (Habitat) and the willingness for change among the MRC members.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) (n.d) - Women's Eye-View: Grassroots women’s approach to settlements development - SSP [pdf]

The Huairou Commission partnered with the UNCHS Women and Habitat Program on a global initiative that seeks to monitor the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, following the Istanbul Conference in 1996. Grassroots women’s groups and networks in three regions, Africa, North America and Asia, have initiated projects in the last two years. In Asia, the Women’s Eye-View project was hosted by Swayam Shikshan Prayog, in India on behalf of the Asian Women and Shelter Network. The Journey So Far During the preparatory process leading up to Habitat II Conference, SSP organized a series of consultations to look at the different forms of women’s participation in settlements development. In January 1995, for the first time a group of practitioners and researchers, representing different sectors came together to look at settlements development in a holistic manner. They asserted that settlements development must be seen as more than housing and land issues. A settlements perspective should encompass the range of issues that affect the survival of communities. Participants also expressed the need to create learning fora to promote inter-sectional exchanges of ideas.

UN-Habitat (2002) - Best Practice - Mother Centre International Network /AG International, Stuttgart - [pdf]

Germany - The Mother Centres International Network' initiative was started by grassroots women's movement in Germany as a consequence of a research project at the German Youth Institute in Munich. The first three model Mother Centres were funded by the German Government Department for Family Affairs. After publication of the Book, "Mothers in the Center - Mother Centres" in 1985, the mother Centres spread "like a virus" due to peer visits and exchanges throughout Germany and neighbouring countries. Following the transition in Central and Eastern Europe Mother Centres were created using bottom up approach, as self-help initiatives in the Czech and Slovak Republics, in Bulgaria, Russia, Georgia and Bosnia Herzegowina. Worldwide there are now 700 mother centres including those in Africa and North America.

UN-Habitat (2002) - Best Practice - Information Centres as New Social Institutes, Moscow [pdf]

Russia - Information Centre of the Independent Women's Forum (ICIWF) is a non-profit women's organization created in 1994. ICIWF is one of the very few organizations in Russia that successfully combines information and publishing of educational projects, supports regional and grassroots initiatives of women, develops partnership, promotes engendering urban, municipal and local policy, and involves women in local self-governance.

UTTHAN MAHITI - Women's Eye View - Women, Water and Communities - SSP [pdf]

India - Traveling long distances to fetch water is part of many a woman’s daily survival activities in the Bhal region in rural Gujarat. One of the most grim battles for overcoming the acute scarcity of water is waged on a daily basis. The entire responsibility for finding water for the communities’ needs devolves on women. The seriousness of the issue can be understood from the fact that in summer, violent fights over water shortages are quite common. It is equally common to see groups of women in search of water. When they fail to find any, entire villages have to make do with drinking saline water which is non-potable or simply wait for infrequent supplies from tankers.

city level

Beall, Jo (1996) - Urban Governance: Why Gender Matters - UNDP [pdf]

Urban governance must be gender-sensitive if it is to be equitable,
sustainable and effective. Participation and civic engagement are critical determinants of good governance, a concept which addresses issues of social equity and political legitimacy and not merely the efficient management of infrastructure and services. The different ways in which women and men participate in and benefit from urban governance are significantly shaped by prevailing constructions of gender, whose norms, expectations and institutional expressions constrain women's access to the social and economic, and thus political, resources of the city. Most societies ascribe roles and responsibilities to women and men differentially but fail to value, or even account for, the crucial contributions women's labour makes to household and community maintenance. Ironically, such social reproduction allows little time (or, in some cases, permission) for women to participate in civic life in ways which help them to determine their own lives.

Ruel, Marie T., Bénédicte de la Brière, Kelly Hallman,
Agnes Quisumbing, and Nora Coj (2002) - Does Subsidized Childcare Help Poor Working Women in Urban Areas? Evaluation of a Government - Sponsored Program in Guatemala City- IFPRI [

Guatemala - High urbanization rates in Latin America are accompanied by an increase in women’s participation in the labor force and the number of households headed by single mothers. Reliable and affordable childcare alternatives are thus becoming increasingly important in urban areas. The Hogares Comunitarios Program (HCP), established in Guatemala City in 1991, was a direct response to the increasing need of poor urban dwellers for substitute childcare. This government-sponsored pilot program was designed as a strategy to alleviate poverty by providing working parents with low-cost, quality childcare within their community. This paper presents preliminary findings from an evaluation of the HCP carried out in 1998 in urban slums of Guatemala City.

international level

Drage, Jean (2001) - Women in Local Government in Asia and the Pacific: A comparative analysis of thirteen countries - UN-ESCAP [pdf]

Women are underrepresented in local government in the Asia and Pacific region. Statistics show the percentage of women in local government seats range from a high of 33 percent to a low of 2 percent. There are even fewer women in management positions in local government. Women in South Asia and the East Asia and Pacific sub-regions have had more electoral success overall than those in South-East Asia. In South Asia this success is directly related to a quota of reserved seats being allocated for women, a measure that, when introduced, instantly changed the level of women’s involvement. In East Asia and the Pacific the numbers reflect the length of time women have been able to vote and stand for election; the overall level of development in most of these countries and the social and economic circumstances within which women live, and the long campaigns for changes to increase the numbers.

Levy, Caren (1996) - The Process of Institutionalising Gender in Policy and Planning: The Web of Institutionalisation - Working Paper N° 74 - DPU [pdf]

Events like the Fourth UN Conference for Women which was held in Beijing in September 1995 help to focus the mind on issues like `how far have we come?' and `where are we going to?' Thus, while many are working towards setting and implementing new agendas for the millennium, the experience gained since the first formal national and international commitment to Women in Development in 1975 is also being reviewed. Despite 20 years of international, national and local activities on behalf of women, it is clear that most development activities continue without explicitly considering half the population as active participants in development - even when empirical evidence has shown that women are key actors in all development spheres, on their own, collectively with other women or with men.

Smaoun, Soraya - Violence Against Women in Urban Areas: An Analysis of the Problem from a Gender Perspective - UMP Working Paper Series 17, UN-HABITAT [pdf]

Although women’s contribution in today’s societies is essential and indisputable, nowhere is their status on a par with men’s. Women are a vulnerable group in all areas. With respect to violence, the evidence is revealing and irrevocable: not only are women particularly affected by many forms of violence, but most often these happen inside what
should be the most secure of environments; their own homes. As the United Nations Development Programme’s annual Human Development Report (1995) commented: “In no society are women secure or treated as equal to men. Personal insecurity shadows them from cradle to grave… From childhood through adulthood, they are abused because of their gender”. Moreover, the social context would generally appear to encourage violence against women. Images which devalue and undermine women are widespread, and legitimise violence against them. Cultural practices and the patriarchal system governing modern societies, define women’s needs in accordance to men’s and are subordinate to them.

UNESCO-MOST (n.d) - Urban Basic Service for Mothers and Children in Peri-urban Neighborhoods Turkey - UNESCO-MOST [pdf]

High rates of urbanization and a rapidly increasing mass of urban poor justified an Urban Basic Services (UBS) programme in Turkey. The Ahatli Project on UBS started in mid 1989, in a pilot area of Antalya City. The rationale in which the project was based was an ever-increasing concentration of children and mothers in urban areas, with low-quality of life indicators. Drawbacks in the development policies, traditionally emphasizing the rural setting and building of massive engineering projects led to single out as a prime goal of this project, a self-sustaining model of participatory development, sustained by intersectoral collaboration. The mother and child health and establishment of a social infrastructure for participation were the initial components which evolved in 1990 into a multifocal project, with additional components of environmental upgrading and income generation. Antalya project officially finalized in 1994. After five years of implementation the project is matured to serve as a model for urban area based projects in Turkey and being followed by Ankara project which is still being implementing in the squatter areas of Ankara Turkey.

Hainard, François; Christine Verschuur & Malika Wyss M’Zali (2001) - Women and urban crises Gender sensitive strategies for managing critical urban environments in the South and in Eastern Europe - UNESCO-MOST [pdf]

More than half the world’s population will be living in cities by the year
2005. The increasing urbanization of populations in the South is triggering rapid changes in living conditions and social relations, especially between the genders. Disadvantaged urban women bear much of the brunt of the problems stemming from the current thrust of development: environmental degradation and feminization of poverty are parallel yet interrelated processes. Given that they are already struggling with city management and governance, how are the countries of the South going to cope with an urban population that is set to triple over the coming thirty years? Can analysis of present-day situations serve as a source of the ideas and inspiration needed to restore cities to their erstwhile role as catalysts of progress, prosperity and fulfilment? What inputs can analysis of urban grass-roots movements, most of whose active members are women, offer urban policy-makers and managers?

United Nations (1999) - World Survey on the Role of Women in Development: Globalization, Gender and Work - UN [pdf]

Today, gender is finally at the centre of development policies, after three decades of struggle. Since 1975, when the World Conference of the International Women’s Year was held at Mexico City, the discourse on women’s advancement and its relation with the development process has evolved. Essentially, it has shifted in focus from the intellectual and political approach of “women in development” (WID) to the new approach of “gender and development” (GAD).
More recently “gender mainstreaming” has emerged as a strategy to promote gender equality.

UNDP (2000) - Women's Political Participation and Good Governance: 21st Century Challenges - UNDP [pdf]

Gender equality and the empowerment of women are critical dimensions of the United Nations Development Programme’s efforts to help meet the overarching goal of halving world poverty by 2015. The launch of this publication during the General Assembly Special Session on Beijing +5 testifies to UNDP’s commitment to keeping these issues among its top priorities. The studies it contains clearly show how, despite substantial obstacles, women decision makers in developing countries have already begun to put a distinctive stamp on governance mechanisms, institutions and broader political debates. But it also draws attention to the fact that much more still needs to be done.

UN-Habitat (2000) - Policy Paper on Women and Urban Governance [pdf]

Because women and men experience cities differently due to their different roles and activities, and women’s needs are seldom represented in policy or planning, it is essential that these interests are now actively advanced (Beall, 1996: 2). UNCHS has selected the following areas for strategic attention: basic services, human rights, economic capacity, transport, violence and security of tenure. Issues that affect women are not static, as the roles of women and men in
different societies around the world are constantly shifting, especially recently as a result of economic globalisation. The, policy paper pays specific attention to the issues affecting urban poor women developing countries.

web sites

U-N Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action - The Fourth World Conference on Women - September 1995 [pdf]

U-N General Assembly - June 2000: We the Governments participating in the special session of the General
1. Reaffirm our commitment to the goals and objectives contained in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the year 2000 as the culmination of the United Nations Decade for Women, 1976 to 1985 [pdf]


Documents highlighting DFID's published work in support of health and education in urban areas:

"Gender and Transport Planning in Pamplona" - Wakely, Patrick; Nicholas You (2001) – Implementing the Habitat Agenda: In Search of Urban Sustainability - DPU [pdf]

Spain - The introduction of gender considerations in the planning of the regional transport system is vital to ensure that transport services meet the needs of all users. The processes of addressing the particular transportation needs of women can also lead to a growing awareness and sensitivity of women's participation in town planning processes.

"Women's Empowerment Programme" - Ibid. [pdf]

Nepal - The Women's Empowerment Programme (WEP), initiated in 1998, addresses three fundamental human rights: basic literacy, economic participation
and the exercise of legal rights. The programme works to empower women through an innovative programme integrating literacy, micro -finance and micro-enterprise training, and an understanding of legal rights and advocacy.

"Women's Right To Land in Dar es Salaam" - Ibid. [pdf]

Tanzania - The Women Advancement Trust (WAT) was founded in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1989, to promote the interests of women through education, training and information sharing. The first major campaign was to influence the new land laws, which discriminated against women. This was successful in 1999 when new, gender-sensitive Land Acts were passed.

"Working Women's Independence in Ahmedabad City" - Ibid. [pdf]

India - Poor, self-employed women in the informal sector frequently find it almost impossible to access credit to invest in, and improve, their livelihood activities. NGOs can serve a vital function in tailoring credit systems to meet the needs of such women. SEWA, the Self Employed Women's Association, was formed in 1972 and registered as a trade union in Gujarat, with the main objective of strengthening its members bargaining power to improve income, employment and access to social security.

2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon