*Habitat III is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development to take place in 2016.  - http://unhabitat.org/habitat-iii/

*Habitat III Conference Prep Com 2014 - http://unhabitat.org/preparatory-process/

*Civil Society Working Group Events, Advocacy - Huairou Commission - info@huairou.org








Compared to rural areas, cities and towns generally offer women more diverse work opportunities to increase financial independence, greater ease in accessing education at different levels, better access to healthcare, more chances to socialize outside the home, more opportunities for filling community or political leadership roles and, perhaps most importantly, more possibilities to redefine traditional roles of men and women. However, women and men and girls and boys do experience cities differently, and they do not benefit equally from urbanization and the opportunities in cities. Some of the most pressing gender issues affecting urban development are:

Women and Girls’ Right to Land and Housing


Land and housing affects food security, economic livelihoods, education, health, basic services, freedom from violence, and autonomy and dignity. Lack of secure tenure over housing and land affects millions of people across the world, but women face harsher deprivations with some traditions and customs denying women direct entitlements to land. This translates into policies and laws that prevent women from buying land directly, having a house in their own name, or having control over decision-making regarding land and housing issues. Women own less of the world’s private land than men, as little as 2 per cent according to some estimates. Accessing, owning and controlling land and housing empowers women to take control of their lives and to drive sustainable development in their communities.


Safety and Security of Women and Girls in Cities


Women’s lack of safety is a serious obstacle to achieving gender equality as it inhibits women’s mobility and limits their right to participate fully and freely as citizens in their communities. Poor urban design choices, such as poor street lighting and secluded underground walkways can make women more at risk of violence and sexual attacks in public spaces. Women’s safety involves strategies, practices, and policies which aim to reduce gender-based violence, including women’s vulnerability to crime.

Making communities safer for all requires a change in community norms, patterns of social interaction, values, customs, and institutions. Thus gender sensitive policies, planning, and approaches to the prevention of crime and violence against women need to be inclusive of development and safety strategies.

Women and Slums


Nowhere are the inequalities facing urban woman more clear than in slums and informal settlements, where the picture around the world is almost invariably of women experiencing the greatest degrees of poverty, reproductive health risks, sexual threats and violence, as well as the worst barriers to education, employment, housing, and basic services like water and sanitation.


Livelihood and Economic Empowerment of Women and Girls


Even though women have more opportunities for work in urban areas, they still typically earn less than men, partly because they are concentrated in low-paying jobs and sometimes because they are paid less for the same work. Poor women face immense challenges in accessing credit and financing for themselves and their organizations. It is well established that where there is greater gender equality, poverty levels go down. Economic empowerment further gives women greater decision-making power within their families.


Women and Girls in Local and Urban Governance


Good local governance is essential to improving human settlements and the lives of the urban poor, affecting local service delivery, housing, and other conditions related to local communities. Unless women and communities are involved in decision making and policy development at every level of governance, changes to women’s political and socio-economic status will likely be minimal, and the improvement of human settlements will be greatly constrained. Women are still a minority within leadership and struggle to sustain their positions within male-dominated political systems.

Women and Girls’ Health


Lack of access to clean water, sanitation, and other basic services poses great risks for health.


Women, particularly those in poor communities, are at great risk for health problems, and are prevented from accessing and benefiting from quality health services due to a lack of adequate services, systems, and socio-political will. Women are more likely to experience physical, sexual, and emotional violence, which adversely affects their health. Women and poor communities are affected by HIV/ AIDS more severely than any other group. Socio-economic, cultural and political power disparities, stigma and double standards, and the burden of care placed on women also contribute to this imbalance. Programmes must take these inequalities into account as well as address patriarchal patterns of controlling women’s sexuality and reproduction in order to support sustainable community development and health systems that demonstrate results.


UN-Habitat´s work to promote gender equal towns and cities


UN-Habitat’s work helps to make cities develop sustainably, with effective and inclusive services that benefit all residents. This is why we strive to improve women’s rights, promote equal participation in decision-making, and develop services that benefit women and men equally in all our programmes.

The main objective of the gender equality programme at UN-Habitat is to ensure that gender equality is systematically and effectively integrated in all projects and programmes at all levels from local, national and global; including its policies, structure and internal procedures. The institutionalization of gender mainstreaming and gender equality ensures that gender issues and perspectives are no longer considered on a ‘stand alone’ basis or as additional chores in project design and formulation, development and implementation.

UN-Habitat’s Gender Coordination and Support Unit  coordinates, supports, and facilitates the institutionalizing of the culture of gender mainstreaming within UN-Habitat. Gender Focal Points within each branch and regional office are active working partners in achieving this goal.

The key objectives of Gender Coordination and Support Unit:
• Ensuring gender equality is systematically integrated in all UN-Habitat projects and programmes;
• Increasing the number of cites formulating and implementing sustainable urbanization policies that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment at all levels.

The Advisory Group on Gender Issues (AGGI) was established in 2012 as an independent advisory body to the UN-Habitat Executive Director, guided by principles of integrity, transparency, trust, and accountability. Its role is to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in sustainable urban development; through the provision of strategic guidance and advice, across policies, programme work, and budgeting at the global, regional, national, and local levels, taking note of gender evaluations, resolutions and the wider UN context for coherent work on women’s empowerment and gender equality. The work of AGGI addresses and impacts all of the thematic areas of UN-Habitat’s work. The AGGI Board is made up of 18 members nominated with consideration of age, gender, regional balance and professional backgrounds.



Learn about the Gender Equality Network



Safer Cities 

Learn about the Global Network on Safer Cities