Achieving gender equality is a core tenet within societies in order to accomplish inclusion. Urban planning and practices have a great responsibility in delivering equality and inclusion as urban planning shapes the environment we live in.  The process of planning and design has a direct relationship with the structures and behaviors that define our societies. The key aspects of the built environment associated with mobility, access, safety, and security can create social and economic advantages as well as disadvantages for its users.

Why gender-inclusive planning?

The impacts of ongoing and historical bias in who makes planning and design decisions are far-reaching, and ultimately affect nearly every aspect of day-to-day life. Planning with a gender lens can ensure the full participation of underrepresented voices. General challenges that come in the regular life of women, girls, and gender minorities are in transportation services, lighting on streets, and public toilet facilities, lack of which create a sense of inconvenience and risk in an urban environment.

Key issues in the built environment that exacerbate and reinforce gender inequality:

Mobility: Women devote substantially more time to do domestic tasks and reproductive work than men, and thus more likely to use public transportation often combining multiple stops and complex trips. New approaches to segmenting trip demand data may be paving the way for more inclusive, flexible transit that accommodates primarily caregivers when grouping care-related tasks.

Access: Typical spatial planning, zoning, and land use policies and practices create legal divisions between industrial and commercial zones of production, recreational zones, and residential zones.  Women use streets and public spaces more frequently and for a greater variety of purposes than men.

Safety & freedom: Perhaps more than any other group, women and gender minorities have difficulty moving around because they are more prone to avoid risky behavior like strolling alone at night, using public transportation, and choosing certain routes. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) has a significant share in the public realm around the world.  Violence against women in public has been found most likely to occur at and around toilets, at schools, in drinking bars, and in secluded areas such as narrow lanes and open fields.

Health & Hygiene: As compared to men, women have a higher rate of physical inactivity resulting in an increase in chronic disease, obesity, and shorter lifespan. Lack of access and mobility are likely to contribute to a disproportionate level of social exclusion among women and other gender minorities. The lack of sanitation infrastructure restricts girls from going to school and interferes with their ability to learn. It also contributes to drastically high rates of school dropouts and unemployment.

Climate Resilience: Disasters destroy housing and livelihoods, causing many women to lose income from home-based work and often, to lose land tenure. Widowed women have been found especially vulnerable to losing land rights.

Security of Tenure: World’s economies have many constraints on women’s right to property limiting their ability to own, manage and inherit land. Land rights are mostly defined at the national level and may seem to be an issue primarily affecting women in rural areas as compared to urban and peri-urban areas. Land serves as a key input as a financial resource, an income generator, and a means to establish safe and secure rights in a region. Thus restrciting women and gender minorities to generate social and economic benefits.

There can be no gender-inclusive city without gender inclusive process. In order to fulfill the ultimate goal of creating gender-inclusive cities that advance gender equity world needs to adopt a non-traditional approach.

Non-traditional approaches:

Participatory approach: Gender inclusion, means actively bringing the voices of women, girls, and gender minorities into critical decision-making.

Integrated approach: Incorporating cross-sectional strategies to address gender needs holistically, by working across different sectors, typologies, practices, and fields of expertise.

Universal Design: Meeting the needs of all people regardless of their gender, size, and age.

Knowledge Building: Growing the capacity and influence of under-represented groups in key decisions. Building strategically on knowledge through Gender-inclusive urban planning and design.

Power Building: providing opportunities for women and gender minorities to collaborate more in shaping the built environment.

Investment: Gender-inclusive planning and design require a fundamental realignment in committing the necessary finances and expertise.

A city in which women, girls and gender minorities of all ages and abilities can get around easily and safely, participate fully in the workforce and in public life and lead healthy, sociable, and active lives is a city that improves life for everyone. Over half of the world’s population are women, girls, and gender minorities, thus it is an opportunity and not a burden to cater to the needs, desires, and skills of all in cities as a whole.

This article is based on the report: Handbook for Gender-Inclusive Urban Planning and Design (

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