Friday, December 10, 2010



20 November 2000



Basic services
Human rights
Economic capacity
Violence against women
Security of Tenure

International frameworks and the national picture
Women in local governance structures
India's Panchayati Raj
Local government in Uganda
Partnership in Mumbai
Sub-regional partnerships in Latin America

Norms and commitments
The Huairou Commission
UNCHS (Habitat)
Habitat's Global Campaigns

Transparency and accountability
Civic engagement and citizenship
Security of individuals and their environment

Women's representation in local government
Recognition and support for urban poor women's activities
Participatory urban policy
Eliminating urban violence against women
Building capacity of women and CBOs
Building capacity of local governments
Gender budgeting

This policy paper has been prepared by UNCHS (Habitat) based on internal consultation. A team led by the Women and Gender, Norms and Policies Unit of the Urban Secretariat produced an outline for policy discussion, in coordination with the Good Urban Governance Campaign Team. A first draft was written by Jo Beall, London School of Economics and Political Science, with assistance from Kirsten Harrison, London School of Economics and Political Science, in July 2000. This was reviewed in-house and further developed by the Women and Urban Governance Team, based on comments from professional staff and selected partners. This draft is being widely circulated to partners and this will shape the final policy paper to be produced in 2001.


Based on the Habitat Agenda, UNCHS (Habitat) is addressing increasing urbanisation and the problem of urban poverty strategically through two campaigns, on Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance. Meeting the needs of women will be a key measure of their success. Enhancing the role of women in urban governance is a pre-condition for the inclusive city promoted by the Global Campaign for Good Urban Governance.

A policy on women and urban governance should address two aspects. One is women’s increased representation in local decision-making. The second is greater attention to issues of concern to women. Both are examined in this policy paper, which also reviews current efforts to address them. The norms of the Campaign for Good Urban Governance are then used as a lens to focus on the policy issues with which the paper concludes.

The status of women in cities is of concern given that women are in a much more vulnerable position than are men (OECD, 1995). According to the State of World Cities (1999), at present 22-23 per cent of households in cities are headed by women. Many of these women are poor (Chant, 1997). UNIFEM (2000) argues that, in both the North and South, women remain unequal to men in terms of employment opportunities, access to resources and representation.

Despite an obvious presence as citizens, women stay under-represented in governing structures. With only a few exceptions, there is a marked absence of women in local decision-making processes. Although women are key players at the local level in household livelihood strategies and residential organisations, they are subject to exclusion from critical decision-making forums.

While the emphasis is on the need for empowerment of women, the policy goal is gender equality, meaning the involvement of both women and men, and attention to issues of concern to both. It is essential that the Campaign for Good Urban Governance as a whole address gender issues throughout, especially within its other flagship outputs.


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 in developing countries.

Basic Services
The lack of basic services and infrastructure affects women most fundamentally in cities because they, more than men, deal with water, sanitation, fuel and waste management due to their domestic responsibilities. Women are also most often the direct managers and decision-makers on basic services at the neighbourhood and household level. Substandard or non-existent services with their attendant health and hygiene risks therefore affect women more than men (Moser, 1992; Beall, 1996; Chant, 1996; UNEP, 2000).

Poverty and rapid urbanisation in developing countries have led to rural livelihood strategies permeating urban areas. Social norms derived from these rural forms of livelihood affect the roles played by men and women. Women frequently remain responsible for subsistence food production, as well as for obtaining water and fuel. Yet their involvement in urban decision-making is sometimes so limited that their efforts to provide for their families, such as through fuel gathering and urban agriculture, may even be against the law or given little public support.

Because of the prominent role of women in managing water, it has been found that their inclusion in management committees improves service and levels of payment (Fong, M., Wakeman, W. & Bhushan, 1996: 7). Likewise, involving women in planning and management of sanitation improves systems and makes them socially and culturally responsive, while increasing communities' sense of ownership (DFID, 1998; UNEP, 2000).

Human Rights
Women’s equal rights are extensively treated in international instruments including conventions, resolutions and declarations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) refers implicitly, through its articles 2 and 21, to women's governance rights. The same applies to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) in articles 2 and 25. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW 1979) treats women's governance rights explicitly in article 7, while the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) is also explicit about this fundamental human right of women. Nevertheless, in many countries women's political, civil, social and economic status remains unequal to that of men. Habitat's Campaign for Good Urban Governance adopts a rights-based approach (UNCHS 2000 b. p.3).

A focus on local and urban governance means that, beyond legal frameworks and international agreements, the geographies of human rights have to be acknowledged if they are to be realised in practice. The notion of human rights is linked to that of citizenship rights, which inevitably relates to localities (Lister, 1997). This spatial dimension of rights also has a gender aspect. Women’s right to work and the right to political participation can be abused by lack of freedom to move in space (Fenster, 1999). The issue of women’s rights is closely related, therefore, to issues of public safety and gender violence. Women’s rights are also closely connected to housing rights, especially in the urban context, and it is here that the links between Habitat’s campaigns for urban governance and security of tenure intersect.

The Women's Empowerment Programme (WEP) in Nepal, winner of a Habitat Best Practices 2000 award, demonstrates a rights-based approach to governance. WEP works to empower women through integrating literacy, finance and micro-enterprise training with an understanding of women's rights and how to advocate for them. The programme, which reached over 100,000 women in Southern Nepal in less than two years, is demand-driven and provides no subsidies. It is based on the principles that dependency is not empowering, and that economic support without action and advocacy is not sustainable.

Economic Capacity
In many countries women predominate in the urban informal economy where they pursue survivalist activities. The economic contribution of these women has remained largely unacknowledged and unmeasured, while the economic potential of women entrepreneurs is constrained. In many cases urban by-laws have not been up-dated to address these women's need for work in or near the home, meaning that their economic activities may contravene the law. This failure to support women's contributions can negatively affect the urban economy as a whole.

The need to recognise the economic capacity and potential of women has been a concern for local, national and international organisations. A major focus of poverty reduction strategies is attention and support to women's micro-enterprises. The international and national efforts build on successful experiences such as the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, started in 1972 as a union for poor women, which made great strides in assisting poor women to access credit and micro-finance (UNCHS,1997, UNCHS, 2000f). Pakistan's Poverty Alleviation Fund directs a tranche of funding directly to poor women, specifying that they must be involved in development projects and represented on governing structures (World Bank, 2000a: 7).

The economic capacity of women in urban areas is linked to basic services and security of tenure. With women's economic activities concentrated in the informal economy and close to home, their need for resources essential to business in residential urban areas is crucial. These include water and sanitation as well as property and land. A gender sensitive policy would recognise the value of informal and survivalist economic activities, both to urban poverty reduction and to economic development in the city.

Women depend more heavily on public transport than men and, given the allocation of household resources, women have less access to private modes of transport (OECD, 1995). Women also use transport in different ways from men because of gender divisions of labour (Peters, 1998). For example they are more likely to travel in off-peak periods and to travel accompanied by others, such as when taking children to school or taking older or infirm relatives to hospitals or clinics. There are also particular cultural patterns associated with women's use of transport, such as the separate sections for women on some public transport in countries of South Asia.

It is only in recent years that transport has been considered as more than a technical subject, and even more recently that planning, investing in and managing transport with women's as well as men's needs in mind has been considered (OECD, 1995; World Bank, 2000:). Habitat sees transport as a social, economic, environmental and technical aspect of urban life (Toepfer, 1998: 2). Within this context transport is recognised as a crucial urban governance issue for women. Recent World Bank studies indicate that gendering public transport is critical to women in the city because of its impact on their access to work, employment, safety and time allocated to domestic work (World Bank, 2000a).

Women’s transport needs can be best served through programmes that:
• Improve access to transport.
• Provide more frequent services.
• Consider the public safety issues of women using public transport.
As with other urban services, transport priorities for women will necessarily differ from one context to another. Their needs can only be ascertained through effective consultation with women themselves.

Violence Against Women
Violence affects women in both the North and the South. The pervasive risk of violence restricts women's full participation in society (Heyzer, 1998: 17). Violence against women has been on the international agenda since the start of the first UN Decade for Women in 1975, and continues to be a critical issue in international agreements, including CEDAW (1979) and the Beijing Platform for Action (1995). It remains a key obstacle to women’s equality and empowerment (UMP, 2000: 18).

Urban violence against women presents itself in the public and domestic domain, and has been linked closely with issues of housing and shelter. Women subject to domestic violence may remain in abusive relationships if they are unable to secure rights to land and property except through their husbands. Violent clashes between different urban groups in the public domain are often played out in terms of attacks on women and therefore restrict their access to public space and life (Vadera, 1997).

In Montreal, Canada, a well-known programme deals with violence against women through partnership and cooperation. The Femmes et Ville programme engages stakeholders in a consultation and action planning process to address safety issues for women and men. It also constructed a partnership between women’s groups and the city administration (Michaud, 2000: 6). Its success is a consequence of ongoing interaction and coordination among various stakeholders.

By including women participants in safety planning, local authorities can use scarce resources efficiently as well as developing effective processes of urban governance. Women safety audits are an innovative way of involving women in city design and planning. The audit is based on the principle that women can best identify elements of the urban environment likely to give rise to the risk of assault and affect their feeling of security. Safety Audits can be a key ingredient in the modification of social structures, politics and institutional procedures (Wekerle and Whitzman, 1995). The Women Safety Audit will become part of the Toolkit of the Good Urban Governance Campaign.

Security of Tenure
Security of tenure, or the lack of it, is a key factor in the ability of poor households to protect themselves from the threat of forced evictions, and their willingness to invest in improving their living conditions. The overarching objective of Habitat’s Global Campaign for Secure Tenure is to improve shelter strategies for the urban poor (UNCHS:2000b). This includes a focus on the empowerment and involvement of women, whose access to land and property is highly unequal. This policy paper links to another in preparation, on Women and Secure Tenure.

Where women lack access to and control over land and housing because they are women, this constitutes a violation of human rights, as well as contributing to their increasing poverty. Despite important recent legal reforms, women in many places fail to benefit through increased rights to inherit property. This may be due to legal systems being inaccessible or to a preference for customary over statutory law. Property titling systems may grant title to men rather than women or simply be too costly for poor women. Finally, lending or credit policies are often discriminatory (UNCHS, 2000b).

At present, women are often excluded from secure tenure as a consequence of cultural norms as well as unequal legislative and political systems. Yet the extension of secure tenure to women has far reaching implications for their economic and human rights. It also affects their economic capability and thus the effective functioning of the urban economy. Secure tenure helps women pursue income-earning activities and to access credit, which is an important tool for empowering women and reducing poverty.


International frameworks and the national picture
The role of women in the decision-making process is addressed by international agreements, including CEDAW and the Beijing Platform For Action (1995). Section 190 (a) of the Beijing Platform for Action suggests governments set specific gender targets to achieve a gender balance in government and administrative positions. Section 190 (e) encourages governments to track the gender balance in decision-making processes in public and private sectors. There are also specific references in Item 9 of the IULA Worldwide Declaration on Women in Local Government, 1998:
'The problem and challenges facing humanity are global but occur and have to be dealt with at the local level. Women have the equal right to freedom from poverty, discrimination, environmental degradation and insecurity. To fight these problems and to meet the challenges of sustainable human development, it is crucial that women be empowered and involved in local government as decision makers, planners and managers'.

Notwithstanding international norms and standards, UNDP’s Gender Empowerment Measure of February 1999 indicates that the anticipated standards have not as yet been met. The UN Data base on Women’s Indicators and Statistics shows that only eight countries have achieved the target of 30 per cent or more seats held by women in parliament: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Germany and South Africa (UNIFEM, 2000: 100). Table One shows the percentages of women holding seats in national parliaments.

Table One: Percentage of Women Holding Seats in National Parliament

All Developing Countries
Least Developed Countries
Sub-saharan Africa
Arab States
East Asia
East Asia (excluding China)
South East Asia and Pacific
South Asia
South Asia (excluding India)
Latin America and Caribbean
Eastern Europe and CIS Countries
Industrialised Countries

Source: UNDP (1999)

Women in local governance structures
The International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) estimates the percentage of women local councillors to be as follows: in the USA 23 per cent, in Europe 20 per cent, in Canada 18 per cent, less than five per cent in Africa and 3.8 per cent in Latin America. These figures are not available for Asia (IULA, 1998a). Even when women do enter local government, there is evidence of poor retention rates and high turnover, resulting from the difficulties women face in balancing their responsibilities at home and at work with their political engagement. International targets may not have been met, but there is some evidence that women’s share of decision-making positions has increased in the past decade (UNIFEM, 2000: 11).

There is much local variation. Although one in five elected representatives in local government in Europe were female in 1997, this varies from 40 per cent in Sweden to only four per cent in Greece. The USA, with a higher average than Europe during the 1990s, also had 17 per cent of mayors who were women and in 1997, while twelve of the hundred largest cities had women mayors or city managers (IULA, 1998a; Karam, 2000:18-19). In Canada the overall number of women council members is 18 per cent, facilitated by a quota system in Quebec. However, an increase in women mayors and councillors between 1985 and 1996 declined thereafter.

The representation of women in local councils is poorest in sub-Saharan Africa where it is estimated at less than five percent. However, affirmative action in both Tanzania and Uganda has recently led to there being 30 percent women in local government (FIDA, 2000). No statistical information is available for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Figures for Asia are also limited. In the Philippines, women are increasingly involved in local councils as in India, which has introduced quotas for women in the Panchayati Raj system. However, in Australia the number of women in local government has dropped despite women's long involvement in local politics.

Sometimes women’s involvement in local government is positively welcomed, for example where they are portrayed as a sobering influence on violence. In Latin America, between 1992 and 1995 the average number of women mayors stood at 7.5 per cent, although only 3.8 per cent of municipal councillors were women. In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, has 21 per cent of local councillors and 14 per cent mayors who are women (IULA, 1998a).

At the formal, party political level, using proportional representation or quota systems to represent women in local urban governance structures has been tried in a number of contexts. This gives women a presence in the political domain and provides role models for women outside it. However, some problems that have arisen in sustaining women’s involvement and making an impact on political processes. Given this experience, it is essential that mechanisms be found to support women leaders in representing the women to whom they are accountable.

In terms of politics at the wider level of civic engagement, it is essential to recognise the role women play in urban social movements and to recognise the added value such organisations can bring to good urban governance (Moser, 1987; Machado, 1994). As has been pointed out:
The findings of research in some places in Latin America indicate that women are actively involved at the base of the new forms of urban social movement …. However, the little work there is on women’s involvement in urban social movements shows that, although women form the base of the movements, they are replaced by male leaders as they move into the political sphere …. The link between women’s work and the urban crisis has been investigated and the point made that, unless women’s concerns become the concerns of the whole community and are addressed in public life, the urban crisis will simply get worse (Lee-Smith 1999:157).

Greater recognition of the particular issues that exercise women organised on the ground, and how these coincide or differ from those pursued by men, will make a substantial contribution to better urban governance. It is important to ensure too that women are not just represented in social movements, decision-making forums and committees but are to be found in management and leadership positions. All too often women are incorporated to accede to quotas without being given real authority. Experience shows that women newly entering the political arena benefit from capacity building and support. This has been the case in South Africa for example.

Developing a core of empowered women to feed into decision-making bodies at city level is key to implementing a policy of women in urban governance. International experience (UNDP, UNCHS) demonstrates that women are able to impact meaningfully on governance issues if sufficiently empowered, informed and confident. This can be achieved through training and capacity building for community-based organisations and NGOs. International statements such as the IULA Worldwide Declaration on Women in Local Government (IULA, 1998b) are also useful tools.

It is likely that city authorities will want more women involved in local governance if they are aware of the benefits. Local governments are particularly interested in achieving the goals of efficiency and sustainability, so they need to become more aware of the benefits of gender responsiveness through the Campaign for Good Urban Governance. Capacity building, dissemination and exchanges can highlight how women’s involvement can enhance the work of local authorities.

The Indian examples cited below demonstrate the implications of mainstreaming women decision-makers at a local level and through partnership. The Ugandan example demonstrates the benefits of the simultaneous empowerment of women at national and local levels. Latin America offers the example of benefits deriving from sub-regional partnerships.

India’s Panchayati Raj
As the result of a constitutional amendment in 1992 promulgating that a third of the seats in local councils be allotted to women, 800 000 women entered local level politics in urban and rural areas of India (Vyasulu &Vyasulu, 2000: 41). Although it is may be too soon to evaluate the impact, some analyses suggest that this influx of women into local politics has been coupled with a period of mobilisation of grassroots women. This has had the obvious consequence of an increasing presence of women in planning and management, but without a visible impact on policy processes. Thus, while women are now represented in decision-making structures, they have not been empowered to participate actively (Hamadeh-Banerjee, 2000: 75-76). The policy implication is that representation needs to be accompanied by capacity building for new representatives.

Local Government in Uganda
The Ugandan constitution of 1994 states that a minimum of 15 per cent of persons elected to parliament and the constituent assembly are to be women. One in nine local government council seats are allocated to women (Mukibi, 2000: 59). But women in parliament did not assume their increased presence would get women’s issues on the government agenda. A national ‘Women’s Caucus’ of women, youth, disabled and workers representatives, was formed to represent issues of common concern (Mukibi, 2000: 59). The constitution was rewritten in gender-neutral language as a result and equality legislation enacted. The strength of women at national level had an impact on local level politics. The ‘Women’s Caucus’ negotiated for women to hold at least a third of the seats in local councils (Mukibi, 2000: 60). The caucus also established an organisation Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) that undertakes capacity building and training for other women wishing to become involved in decision-making processes on an ongoing basis (Mukibi, 2000: 61).

Partnership in Mumbai
In June 2000 an agreement was signed for the rehabilitation of 3000 pavement dweller households from the Island City of Bombay. The agreement was between a landowner, a construction company, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) and a consortium of NGOs and community based organisations (CBOs). The landowner agreed to give half a piece of land to the SRA in return for permission to develop or sell the other half. MMC will develop the relinquished land to re-house pavement dwellers in the public interest. An NGO called SPARC, the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and a women's CBO called Mahila Milan will work with the communities to compile a list of households and help them relocate, meanwhile registering their societies and cooperatives. The MMC will provide water, sanitation and off-site infrastructure and amenities. MMC will also coordinate with the CBOs and NGOs on clearing the pavements and providing housing. Women's presence and involvement in leadership is challenging the power of the slumlords. This is the result of a long process of empowerment, so that poor urban women no longer see themselves as subservient. They are aware of their entitlements and how to get them (SPARC, 2000).

Sub-Regional Partnerships in Latin America
In October 1998, underpinned by the regional commitments made at Habitat II and Beijing, a sub-regional programme in Latin America began to introduce a gender perspective to municipal projects and to empower women in civil society. The programme was based on an understanding of the increased importance of local government, given increasing decentralisation. A cities-based sub-regional platform, combining member states of Mercosur and United Nations agencies, has fostered relationships between member states around issues of gender empowerment at local level. Key policy programmes for engendering local government in the region include dialogues between NGOs, CBOs and city governments in the partner cities, a web page and a CD-ROM entitled Gobiernos Locales Politicas para Mujeres (Local Governments' Women Policies) (UNCHS, 2000f).


Norms and commitments
The commitments, actions and experience of Habitat and its partners in relation to gender and governance can be classified as follows:
• Initiatives to meet the obligations of international standards and agreements.
• Monitoring the state of gender equity at a various levels.
• Pursuing programmes that actively involve women at the local level.
The outcomes of these activities guide this policy paper and its recommendations.

The Beijing Platform for Action (1995) has influenced recent actions by international organisations, governments and civil society. The World Bank (2000a), UNDP (2000), UNIFEM (2000) and UNCHS (1997) have all recently produced publications outlining and evaluating their gender programmes. Although legislative changes to bring about gender equality have been passed in numerous countries, gender inequalities persist. Constraints were identified and new goals set at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly, Beijing +5, in June 2000. Despite lobbying from among others, the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) network, the Beijing+5 process ignored the role and inputs of local governments. It is all the more imperative, therefore, that in the Istanbul+5 process, the role of women in local government and the important work being done in gender mainstreaming at the local level, is not ignored and is indeed highlighted.

The Huairou Commission
An important initiative in this regard is the establishment of the Huairou Commission at Beijing in 1995. Initially a voluntary "Super-Coalition" of five global women's networks addressing human settlements issues, the body was recognised by UNCHS (Habitat) as an important NGO partner to advise it on gender. The networks' links to women at grassroots level contribute to a bottom-up, gender-sensitive policy-making process. UNDP has supported the Huairou Commission to monitor and secure a process of engendering local level programmes of governments. The Commission’s mission is to forge strategic partnerships to advance the capacity of grassroots women worldwide to strengthen and create sustainable communities. It tries to:
• ensure that women participate fully in decision-making at all levels
• facilitate the involvement of women in the development of cities and communities
• ensure that women are involved in city level decision-making. (UMP, 2000: 33,34).

The International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) developed a policy paper on Women in Local Government in 1998 (IULA, 1998a). This is one of the few studies that systematically and empirically addresses this vital but under-researched area. Together with the Worldwide Declaration on Women in Local Government, this initiative by IULA has provided an important entry point to the investigation and promotion of women's representation in local government that has already had some impact. The Worldwide Declaration on Women in Local Government (IULA, 1998b) is a useful awareness raising tool for national associations and individual councils. It is also giving women the backing to take a more active role and to demand recognition in the decision-making structures of local level institutions. The IULA Declaration has been distributed in Habitat's information kits for World Habitat Day 2000 whose theme is Women in Urban Governance, and IULA's work on women in local governance is recognised by the award of Habitat's Scroll of Honour.

UNCHS (Habitat)
Throughout the nineteen-nineties, UNCHS (Habitat)'s Women and Habitat Programme pursued an empowered role for women in urban governance in several ways:
 Capacity-building for local and national governments, community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations.
 Development of Empowerment Indicators for Women’s Participation in Shelter Strategies at Community Level, applied in 17 countries so far. It was found that local women's involvement in research and data gathering empowers them for an increased role in governance (UNCHS, 2000c:8)
 An association of women municipalists formed in Latin America and a system of awards for gender-sensitive municipalities give visibility to gender related issues and increase confidence in the positive results to be obtained through the participation of women in urban governance. This has been undertaken with the Urban Management Programme (UMP) and UNIFEM/LA. Over 70 cities have been competing.
 Training of teams of men and women gender catalysts in several sub-regions.

In 1998 UNCHS (Habitat) and UNEP, in collaboration with the Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI), an international NGO, organised a Workshop on Gender Responsive Environmental Planning and Management. A source book on Gender Responsive Environmental Planning and Management contains the case studies and the approach to methodology developed.

The Urban Management Programme (UMP) city consultation process aims at identifying specific problems that women encounter in urban areas, and to mainstream gender concerns in participatory urban governance, urban poverty and the urban environment. Activities are ongoing in the Arab region as well as Latin America. During the nineteen-nineties, the Community Development Programme (CDP) found that working directly with low income urban communities increases the visibility of women's concerns.

UNCHS (Habitat) has also developed a set of gender sensitive indicators of stakeholder participation in local decision-making. This tool is being tested in selected cities in preparation for the Istanbul +5 Conference in 2001. The indicators permit monitoring and evaluation of stakeholder participation in local governance, particularly the urban poor, at four stages:
• gathering information and making an assessment,
• strategy and action planning,
• resource mobilization for effective implementation, and
• institutionalisation
Each indicator specifically measures gender equality and the incorporation of both women’s and men’s priorities so the final outcome is gender responsive. This tool is available on the internet at:

Habitat’s Global Campaigns
UNDP has contended that bad governance and poor policies are the foremost cause of poverty in cities while evidence suggests that good governance and local democracy are vital to ensuring sustainable cities. UNCHS has recognised that the pursuit of good urban governance is critical to its strategic urban vision. Habitat’s two global campaigns, on Good Urban Governance and Secure Tenure, are being launched in 2000. Habitat’s policy paper on Women and Urban Governance is an integral part of this. A gender focus is part of the strategic objectives of the Global Campaign for Good Urban Governance. Both campaigns feature the increased role of women in social, economic and political spheres (HS/C/add 22 March, 2000) and specifically state that meeting the needs of women will be a key measure of their success (UNCHS, 2000a: 4).

UNCHS’s definition of governance, based on the definition developed by the Commission on Global Governance (1995), prioritises partnerships and co-operation between government and civil society:
‘Governance is taken to mean co-operation between government and non-government actors. Good governance means effective co-operation between these actors to bring about solutions that are in the general interest and likely to receive wide support. Good governance thus entails inclusive decision-making processes' UNCHS (2000c).

For partnerships to be inclusive of both women and men, they should ideally be built on shared interests, reciprocal support and mutual benefit, with each partner contributing according to their respective resources, strengths and areas of expertise. Further, it is important that policy recognise that women are as likely as men to have conflicting as well as complementary interests in the context of partnerships (Beall, 1996:16).


The Campaign for Good Urban Governance is underpinned by seven interrelated norms: sustainability, decentralisation, equity, efficiency, transparency and accountability, civic engagement and citizenship, and security. Whilst each of these is applicable to both men and women, there are specific gender aspects that need to be highlighted. This section uses the norms as an analytical framework for viewing women's greater inclusion in the decision-making process. Thus, together with our assessment of the current situation, the norms provide direction for policy choice.

Women play a critical role in urban life, with extensive responsibilities for their families' welfare. Sustainability is a cornerstone of future cities' planning and consultations with all stakeholders in cities, in particular for environmental planning and management, have been identified as a prerequisite for sustainability (UNCHS: 2000a). At times women's livelihood strategies and efforts to provide their households with basic necessities bring them into conflict with local government. It is essential that urban poor women's constraints are recognised and worked with, through supportive partnerships with local authorities. This norm is addressed in policy issue no. 2, on recognition and support for urban poor women's activities, at the end of this paper.

Decentralisation presents the opportunity for greater involvement of women in planning and consultation processes, and also has the potential for a more gender conscious allocation of local resources. Local authorities are closest to their citizens and hence in the best position to involve women in the decision-making process and in consultation (IULA, 1998; UNCHS, 2000c: 19). The decentralisation of authority and resources is also an important means of improving stakeholder participation. However, struggles around resources at the local level can be unruly and local patron-client networks sometimes involve malfeasance and pork-barrel politics, which may serve further to exclude women rather than to encourage them into the political process. On the other hand the case of partnership in Mumbai cited above show how women's involvement may counter these trends. These aspects are addressed in policy issues no. 3, 5 and 6 in our final chapter, dealing with decentralised policy making and capacity building for women and community based organisations as well as local authorities.

Equity in the city implies representation as well as access to resources. Equity of access to decision-making and the basic necessities of urban life are basic to good urban governance. Yet there are countless ways in which income or social status affect people’s ability to participate in city life and access its resources. Even when resources are available, public expenditure may be under-allocated in gender terms (UNIFEM, 2000: 12). For example, economic restructuring often impacts more heavily on women as cutbacks are concentrated on health and social services which support their domestic and caring roles (Moser, 1996). Women’s rights to representation, as well as to basic services and other urban resources, cannot be denied. This norm is addressed in several of the policy issues included in our final chapter, including issues 1, 2 and 7, dealing with representation, support for livelihood strategies, and gender budgeting.

The role women play in the urban economy is often not recognised because much of it takes place in the informal economy or hidden from view as home-working. Cities need to be efficient in terms of finances and administration. This means regulating and coordinating local authorities' management, and targeting finances for effective performance. To ensure this happens, women and men have to be able to contribute optimally to their own survival and the economy. A key challenge is to make visible and valued the contribution of women as well as men to the efficient operation of cities. Efficiency is compromised when women and the poor are not involved in decision-making and policy choices. The norm of efficiency is addressed in several policy issues outlined at the end of this paper, including numbers 2, 3 and 7, dealing with support for livelihood strategies, decentralised policy making and gender budgeting.

Transparency and accountability
A World Bank study demonstrates that the greater women’s rights, and the more women participate in public life, the less public sector corruption there is (World Bank, 2000b:1). However, women must be in a position to access, interpret and comment upon local government performance. Transparency and accountability depends upon city administrations and politics being open to public scrutiny. Communication needs to be accessible to people who cannot handle complex documents, to those not used to engaging in public debate, and to working parents with limited time -- all factors affecting women more than men. This norm is particularly addressed by policy issue no. 5 of our conclusions, dealing with capacity building for women and community organisations, to facilitate their links to local government.

Civic engagement and citizenship
Governments and international agencies alike have increasingly appreciated the importance of women’s grassroots organisations. The crucial role played by women organised on the ground -- in advocating for services and providing infrastructure and basic services themselves in the absence of provision from other sources -- cannot be over-emphasised. It is the responsibility of local authorities to encourage the full engagement of women citizens. It is also in their interests to do so to ensure the effective functioning of urban neighbourhoods. This norm is addressed in several of the policy issues raised by this paper, including issue no. 1 on representation, issue no. 3 on decentralised policy making, and issues no. 5 and 6 on capacity building for better links between communities and local government.

Security of individuals and their environment
Insecure and even hostile urban environments can be perpetuated by local authorities' inattention to planning for women's security both domestically and in public places. Security of individuals and their environment is not confined to cities of the North or the South. It is a matter of growing urgency as unsafe cities restrict access and mobility for their citizens, especially women. Violence against women is just as likely to happen in the home as in public spaces. If women leave abusive relationships, they invariably lose their homes and security as well. Thus violence and the fear of violence prevent women from full and equal participation in the social life of their community and threaten our understanding of what should be the democratic functioning of our society (OECD, 1995). This norm is addressed in policy issue no. 4.


Tensions between economic growth, social equity and political legitimacy are manifest in cities around the world. These tensions must find resolution and urban governance is the site around which such tensions may coalesce and seek resolution. Urban governance in turn can only be effective with the involvement of women alongside men. Women and men experience and use the urban environment in different ways and often have different priorities in terms of urban services and infrastructure. These differences can only properly be understood with reference to prevailing constructions of gender. It is for this reason that Habitat’s Women and Urban Governance Policy Paper concerns itself with the two key aspects: women’s increased role in local decision-making, and issues of concern to women in local governance.

At present, some activities engaged in by urban poor women may not only be ignored in urban decision-making but even proscribed by law and harassed by urban authorities. Greater involvement of women in urban governance will help ensure that women’s interests and needs as citizens contributing to and using cities will feature better in urban policy and investments. However, urban policy makers and planners, whether women or men, all need to be gender aware.

This section of the paper presents the policy implications emerging from our analysis. There is an emphasis on policy directed towards urban poor women, with the goal of poverty reduction. The policy directions are set by Habitat's campaign strategy, which adopts a rights-based approach. At the same time, ignoring women's potential role in urban governance can lead to potential losses in efficiency and effectiveness, and this must also be considered in policy choice. Thus the norms of the campaign for Good Urban Governance encompass both rights and performance.

The important issues that policy needs to address are outlined in relation to current ongoing efforts to address them, and the constraints and options for implementation:
1. Women's representation in local government
2. Recognition and support for urban poor women's activities
3. Participatory urban policy
4. Eliminating urban violence against women
5. Building capacity of women and CBOs
6. Building capacity of local governments
7. Gender budgeting

Each policy issue is summarised for discussion based on the points emerging from the paper. Efforts to address it so far are also briefly presented. The options listed for consideration are mostly directed at actions that could be taken by central and local governments. However, these are also actions that could be supported by international or donor agencies. The constraints on implementation are briefly summarised to clarify difficulties that may be experienced in implementing proposed policy directions. These may also be due to lack of wide consensus on the issue.

The policy issue format is used to facilitate debate and discussion around each policy area identified. The seven issues represent the distilled outcome of the policy paper in a condensed summary form that is intended to assist in informed policy choice.

Women's representation in local government

What is the issue?
In cities across the globe, with a few exceptions, there is an absence of women in local decision-making processes. If the good urban governance campaign norms of equity and civic engagement are to be met, women's active participation in public institutions must be secured. Policies to facilitate the involvement of women in decision-making are needed, not only within public institutions, but also within civil society. Much of the current thinking on women in the decision-making process has been framed by international agreements such as CEDAW, the Beijing Platform For Action and the Habitat Agenda. Notwithstanding these international norms and standards, UNDP's Gender Empowerment Measure of February 1999 indicates that the anticipated standards have not as yet been met.

What has been done so far?
1. International agreements, including CEDAW and the Beijing Platform For Action (PFA) (1995) speak specifically to the importance of creating a gender balance in decision-making. The PFA suggests governments set specific gender targets to achieve a gender balance in government and administrative positions (PFA 190(a)), and encourages governments to track the gender balance in decision-making processes in public and private sectors (PFA 190(e)).
2. Item 9 of the Worldwide Declaration on Women in Local Government makes similar references.
3. IULA is pursuing a strategy of increasing women's role in urban governance through its regional structure.
4. UNCHS (Habitat) has pursued an increased role for women in urban governance. The outcomes include an association of women municipalists that has been formed in Latin America and a system of awards for municipalities on gender-sensitive urban planning and management.

What needs to be done?
1. Strengthen associations of women leaders and representatives at global, regional, national and local levels.
2. Develop mechanisms to facilitate the involvement of women in the local sphere, such as civic education programmes, and family support.
3. Support women's access to representation within municipalities by the implementation of quota systems.
4. Promote the participation of women who are in a situation of social exclusion or marginalisation.

What are the constraints?
Very little direct attention has been given to women at the local level and their involvement and contribution to decision-making at city level. Even when women do enter local government, there is evidence of poor retention rates and high turnover, resulting from the difficulties women face in balancing their responsibilities at home and at work with their political engagement. Means to address this constraint are developed in policy issue 5 on capacity building.

Recognition and support for urban poor women's activities

What is the issue?
Women's livelihood activities in urban areas support their communities' social and economic wellbeing but often go unrecognised or supported. In the process of urbanisation in developing countries, women's traditional roles of supplying water, fuel, food and other items for domestic consumption are heavily constrained by the lack of services in informal and unplanned settlements. Their duties are also extended to coping with the lack of sanitation and refuse disposal services in an effort to protect their families' health. In addition, they need to carry out income generating work in or near the home to contribute to household funds while caring for the home and children. Yet many of these activities contravene urban by-laws and are even harassed by urban local authorities. For example, firewood gathering may be banned in efforts to protect the environment, urban agriculture may be proscribed, informal trading and businesses in homes restricted. In addition, informal neighbourhoods themselves may be subject to evictions due to insecurity of tenure. Such evictions impinge on the safety and wellbeing of women and children in particular. The good urban governance campaign norms to be addressed are equity, efficiency and sustainability.

What has been done so far?
1. Widespread poverty alleviation measures and other programmes to support micro-enterprises assist urban poor women and imply a shift in urban governance.
2. Habitat's Campaign on Secure Tenure establishes policy dialogue on the status of informal settlements
3. Several countries have adopted positive policies towards informal settlements.
4. Policy measures to promote and plan for urban agriculture have been taken in some countries, (although these do not always benefit low-income women as opposed to wealthier farmers).
5. Urban fuel plantations have been included in some urban plans, and urban fuel policies initiated.

What needs to be done?
1. Review urban by-laws from a gender perspective, including women's representatives and organizations from low-income and informal settlements.
2. Establish policy review forums in low-income urban settlements, ensuring women's interests are identified and included in strategic plans that local authorities can implement in collaboration with communities.

What are the constraints?
Entrenched interests in urban areas fail to recognise that activities of low-income urban residents, including women, are necessary due to lack of household and local authority resources. These are reflected in legislation that restricts the livelihoods of urban poor women.

Participatory urban policy

What is the issue?
Urban policy needs to be derived from a bottom-up process that involves citizens, men and women, and recognises community-based organisations, including women's organisations, as legitimate stakeholders in urban governance. The Habitat Agenda recognises community based organisations (CBOs) as a major partner in designing, implementing and monitoring human settlements strategies, including gender issues and women’s empowerment. Unfortunately, policy-making decisions are often restricted to the experience and recommendations of those in positions of power, who may not directly articulate the concerns of the urban poor, among whom women and women's organisations play an active role. This means that women's concerns largely remain invisible and neglected. There is also a resulting loss in effective use of community resources and potential failure of policy. The good urban governance campaign norms to be addressed are efficiency, sustainability, decentralisation and civic engagement.

What has been done so far?
1. The Habitat Agenda recognises the principle of subsidiarity whereby the lowest levels of society are involved in decision-making inputs. More and more governments are beginning to subscribe to the principle.
2. The Habitat Agenda also encourages local governments to support civic engagement, to promote broad-based participation in urban governance and to establish legal and institutional frameworks for promoting gender equality, and the full and equal participation of women
3. Some local authorities have responded to the initiatives and demands of local women's organisations, particularly in addressing the issues of service provision and urban security.
4. There are increasing examples of participatory city management, including participation in the budget process.

What needs to be done?
1. Create a supportive legal framework to allow CBOs to be established, to act independently and to associate freely.
2. Develop policies for dealing with CBOs and include relations with CBOs in the national gender policy. The policy should recognise the strategic role CBOs play in national development and clarify the responsibilities of all stakeholders to facilitate the involvement of CBOs.
3. Establish a mechanism for partnerships and consultations with CBOs.
4. Provide capacity building to local authorities on how to deal with CBOs (See Issue 6).

What are the constraints?
Prevailing attitudes about who qualifies to inform policy and who has relevant knowledge continues to hinder the participation of local organisations in policy making. Low levels of public sector transparency are another constraint, as is the lack of structures for dialogue with people's organisations. CBOs on the other hand, often lack the capacity to interact with local government. Further, sometimes CBO structures themselves are not gender-sensitive enough, especially concerning women's involvement in political negotiations.

Eliminating urban violence against women

What is the issue?
Violence against women is an obstacle to their participation in governance and must be stopped. Violence against women occurs in both the North and in the South. As a pervasive risk it restricts their full participation in society. Gender violence includes domestic violence and violence in public spaces. Both constitute serious threats to women's equality and empowerment. VAW, while not a discrete urban issue, has been linked closely with issues around housing and shelter. In the domestic domain, the consequences of violence against women reach beyond the family, affect the development of children and have impact on the society as whole. Thus there is a cycle of violence. Domestic violence affects women's security of tenure as well as their physical security. Violence in the public sphere affects women's ability to participate freely in urban governance. The good urban governance campaign norm to be addressed is security of individuals and their environment

What has been done so far?
1. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that "everyone has the right to liberty and security of person".
2. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) agreed in 1979 deals specifically with women's equal rights.
3. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action devotes an entire area of critical concern to the subject of Violence Against Women (VAW).
4. Regional instruments, such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of VAW, have led several countries to change their laws.
5. A few local authorities have developed gender-based approaches to local policies and some NGOs have victim-aid policies and sensitise people to the problem.

What needs to be done?
1. Raise awareness of men and work with the perpetrators of VAW in order to address the real causes of the problem, which are the products of social and cultural practices.
2. A gender-based approach to urban safety and access to data disaggregated by sex are essential. Planning programmes of local authorities can then target the particular needs of both men and women.
3. Modify the design and planning of urban space to reduce the feeling of insecurity and occurrences of assault. The expertise of inhabitants and in particular of women is needed to achieve this.
4. Use the Women Safety Audit as a planning tool to achieve this.

What are the constraints?
Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a hidden problem. Information on the subject is rarely available because it is considered to be within the confines of what is private and intimate. Furthermore, violence against women is a form of discrimination but is not always recognised as such. Therefore, local authorities may not be willing to address the issue openly, and to include this aspect of urban safety in their priorities and plans for good urban governance.

Building capacity of women, and of community-based organisations

What is the issue?
There is need for building the capacity of women, and of community-based organisations, to facilitate their links to local government. The trend towards decentralisation poses enormous challenges to elected representatives and local officials, particularly women, many of whom lack the requisite knowledge and skills for local level decision-making. Developing stronger community-based leadership programmes will generate a body of women equipped for political responsibility. Evidence suggests that a strong core of women political representatives can be causally linked with greater public sector transparency and accountability. This is also linked to more informed gender input in planning and budgetary programmes. There are many capacity-building initiatives relating to organisations of the urban poor, including women, in local governance. These include the actions taken by the central government in Uganda to enhance women's participation in local governance, by providing functional and civic education to local leaders including women. NGOs and CBOs globally have also embarked on civic education programmes aimed at increasing local participation in governance, especially for women. Although these initiatives indicate the emergence of a trend towards improving women's capacity for involvement in local governance there is still much to be done. The relevant norms of the good urban governance campaign are decentralisation, transparency, and civic engagement.

What has been done so far?
1. The Women and Habitat Programme and Local Leadership and Management Programme of UNCHS have developed manuals and conducted training aimed at building the capacity of women.
2. UNDP has developed a gender and development capacity building programme aimed at equipping governments with the pre-requisite skills in gender mainstreaming.
3. Various international, regional and national women's networks have embarked on civic education programmes at local level.
4. Donor agencies and bi-laterals have allocated resources towards women and community based organisations' capacity building initiatives.

What needs to be done?
1. Sharing of information and collective learning on existing activities aimed at capacity building of women at grassroots level.
2. Donor support to such activities, based on learning from best practices and taking them to an effective scale of operation.

What are the constraints?
The majority of capacity building programmes and initiatives are not yet aimed at building capacities of women and local organisations to deal with the challenges of decentralization and urban governance. It is still a new approach to many trainers, training institutions, and to local authorities.

Building capacity of local authorities.

What is the issue?
There is a need to build the capacity of local authorities to link with community-based organisations (CBOs), especially those that incorporate poor urban women. There are few formal mechanisms, in developed or developing countries, for local authorities to incorporate citizens' priorities into their planning and decision-making about how urban neighbourhoods are managed. Structures of local government may fail to keep up with fast changing urban conditions, especially with the rapid urban growth and proliferation of informal settlements in many developing countries. Women among the urban poor have formed many grassroots organisations to address their daily needs and these have formed the basis of urban social movements. This is also true in developed countries where women's organisations attempt to influence local planning through organised lobby groups. Local authorities often lack the necessary organisational structure, knowledge and skills to work effectively with community based organisations. The good urban governance campaign norm to be addressed is civic engagement.

What has been done so far?
1. Resolution CHS 13/13 of 1991, endorsed by the UN General Assembly, invites governments and local authorities to collaborate with women's networks.
2. Local authorities in Europe have responded to the initiatives of organisations such as the German Mothers' Centres and the women's advisory committees in Netherlands.
3. Informal settlement planning committees have been established in some developing countries, although they are often not yet formally linked to local authorities.
4. UNCHS (Habitat) supports stakeholder involvement in its promotion of city consultative forums, although gender representation is not always systematic.
5. UNCHS (Habitat) has a programme of capacity building for local authorities which includes citizen participation.
6. UNCHS (Habitat) has a set of "enablement indicators" that are gender sensitive and relate to citizen participation in decision-making.

What needs to be done?
1. Capacity building tools developed by international agencies should be made completely gender sensitive.
2. Gender sensitive capacity building tools developed by international agencies should be widely disseminated and tested, to provide local authorities with guidance on working with community based organisations, including women's grassroots organisations.
3. Local authorities and governments should institute training programmes for councillors and staff on collaboration with CBO's, including women's organisations and networks.
4. The capacity of women leaders should be built on accountability to the women they represent.

What are the constraints?
Local authorities have well established structures, which do not incorporate public participation. Adapting them to an institutional structure that has such links will take time and presents many obstacles.

Gender budgeting

What is the issue?
Gender budgeting should be included in urban policy and programme planning at all levels. The budget is a key tool for the implementation of social, political and economic policies and priorities. Budgeting is normally done by technocrats oblivious to women's needs or what goes on in the day-to-day activities of women in homes, work-places and on the streets. This results in economic inefficiencies as well as inequities. The budgeting process as a potential tool for implementing progressive commitments and policies cannot be left to the technocrats alone. At present, the majority of women have no say in how money is collected and how it is spent. At the city or municipal level, gender budgeting entails allocating adequate finances towards basic services, transport and the informal sector or micro-enterprises. Policy needs to find ways to re-direct resources to areas and groups previously under-resourced, as well as to take into account the "principle of affordability". Generating a more comprehensive set of gender data within city jurisdictions will assist local government officials in consistently focusing resources in a gender conscious way (UNEP, 2000). Capacity building by and for local authorities in women and urban governance will help ensure that they are able to effectively use the gender disaggregated information at their disposal. The good urban governance campaign norms to be addressed are both equity and efficiency.

What has been done so far?
1. Several countries (South Africa, Uganda) have adopted gender budgeting in policy and programme planning at national and local level.
2. Tools and methodologies for gender responsive budgeting have been developed and compiled by UNIFEM,
3. The best practice on Participatory Budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil provides some insights.

What needs to be done?
1. Build capacity of women in gender budgeting skills at city/municipal level.
2. Build capacity of local authorities to mainstream gender priorities in plans and programmes
3. Develop tools for gender budgeting at municipal level

What are the constraints?
1. Most local authorities have existed for decades and have long established and consolidated their priorities, hierarchies, culture and power. The challenge here is to change these institutions to become more gender responsive.
2. The lack of technical budget skills amongst women leaders.


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