Celene Fung, Strategic Advisor of ASSET, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and Board Member of Women Transforming Cities International helped the Municipality of Batticaloa, Sri Lanka launch a Women Friendly Cities Challenge (WFCC). The WFCC will establish engagement processes and opportunities for women and community stakeholders to provide input into decision making processes. Making Batticaloa women friendly will also make the community more responsive to needs of women, vulnerable society members, and families.
According to the Sri Lanka Daily News, WUSC called on town planners and designers in Sri Lanka to make building safe and female-friendly cities a core component of urban planning. This will enable women to fully participate in the life and the economy of the city.
Celene Fung participated in this discussion, and said that women have historically been excluded from city building. Despite progress in many areas, there are still significant gender gaps and inequalities.
“Making women friendly city is not to exclude others but to make the city more inclusive.”
According to Fung, using a gendered-intersectional lens can eliminate the gaps. This lens will also ensure that all, including young children and other vulnerable groups like the disabled and migrant community are able to fully participate in the life and economy of the city.
“If a city is women friendly, it is friendly for everybody; and when women are happy and everyone is happy.”
A women-friendly city is one where women’s perspectives are central to the design process. Women friendly cities will also allow women to safely access services such as healthcare, public transport, social services, and education with the same ease and opportunity as men.
What is the Women Friendly Cities Challenge?
The Women Friendly Cities Challenge is an international initiative to educate and make cities a safer place for women. Women Transforming Cities International launched the initiative at the UN World Urban Forum, held in February, 2018.
The WFCC is a call for action to the stakeholders, organizations and academia, corporations. The initiative invites these groups in a unified effort towards making a more women friendly environment.
Fung said that the Batticaloa Municipality has a vision to develop the city as a model. Consequently, the city aims to create an environment where women can live without any discrimination and free of violence.
Over 90% of Sri Lankan women endure sexual harassment on public transport. Given this worryingly high statistic, Fung highlighted the importance of improving safe public transport for women in Sri Lanka.
In addition, WUSC recommended that Sri Lanka needs to reduce barriers to women participation in paid work, and strengthen girls’ early orientation to career development. The country must also work to improve law and anti- harassment measures to create women conducive workplaces.
Photo Credit: @puvakamal