Africa: building people and environmental friendly cities-Part Two


Nairobi, Kenya


A continuation of Afrika Reporter’s Chris Mandi’s interview with Dr. Gora Mboup, the former Chief of the UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Observatory and now leading the Global Observatory linking Research to Action (GORA) Corp on a wide range of issues such as urban planning, equity and social inclusion, institutions and laws and infrastructure development among others.

How does Gora Corp incorporate a gender lens into the work that you do, considering urban planning, housing, climate change all have varied impacts on women and girls and their specific needs need to be taken into consideration?

Urban Planning is a starting point for a gender-based approach and for a building of a woman friendly city. For instance, studies show that women and men have different patterns of use of the street network.

While men have the tendency to use the streets mainly for going to work, women use the streets for different reasons: going to the market, taking their children to the health centre, to the school, participating to friends/family meeting and going to the market among others in cities where the formal sector is mainly dominated by men.

Women finally split their movement between work and family matters. Most is this movement is made by foot. This means large, pavement sidewalks are urgently needed, particularly for women. When planning a city, this must be put in the center.

However, in most African cities, less emphasis has been put in improving street network for pedestrians; city authorities have been mainly focus mainly in improving the mobility of motorized means leaving the pedestrians, particularly women and children exposed to frequent traffic accidents.

This is where GORA Corp is collaborating with city authorities to shift the paradigm and improve the street network, and public spaces in general, for people with sidewalk well paved and sufficiently large to ease movement of pedestrians.

There is also need for safe public spaces to host public spaces, for instance after religious services, families, particularly women and children are more likely to continue their journey in a public space, such as a park.

This means gender mainstreaming must be reinforced in urban planning. City authorities must create laws, rules and regulations that benefit men and women equally, and promote equal access to resources.

Beside all this, studies have demonstrated that women have less to housing and land than men. Most of them lack tenure security and are denied right to land and housing. GORA Corp is working closely with partners in the Global Land Tool Network to improve measurement of land tenure and build awareness on women tenure insecurity.

We are all working together to make sure that gender-based land tenure is included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) member states will discuss in September at the United Nations Headquarters.

What about urban planning and housing?

Another aspect to consider is the fact women spend more time at home than men. This means they are more exposed to indoor pollution, particularly in the context of most African cities where household still use solid fuel such as wood and charcoal for cooking.

What this means again, public spaces are particularly needed to avoid them spending more their time indoor with the risk to be exposed to respiratory diseases related to indoor pollution. It is demonstrated that women are particularly vulnerable to climate, primarily because they live in poverty and depend more on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.

It is recognized that the burdens of climate affect more the poor and women than any other group. We are encouraging city authorities to place the empowerment of the poor and women at the heart of debate and action on climate change.

All this is linked to poverty and social injustice. As said By the United Nations SG “Until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice, all our goals – peace, security, sustainable development – stand in jeopardy”.

GORA Corp is working with partners in providing reliable information on gender, climate and cities that can guide formulation of policies on climate change in cities. In All of this, the voices of women must be heard in all processes, from formulation to implementation of policies. GORA Corp promotes linking Research to Action for a people agenda, an agenda by the people for the people.

Noting that AU’s theme for 2015 is “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”…how is Gora integrating or mainstreaming gender in planning, programming, budgeting and implementation of our cities?

The African Union named the year 2015 the year of women’s empowerment and development towards Africa’s agenda 2063.

The year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform (Beijing+20). It also marks the 5th anniversary of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020).

However, gender mainstreaming strategies have been relatively easily understood and successfully adopted in the so-called ‘soft’ social sectors such as education and health.

But, there has been much less progress in the ‘hard’ sectors, including economics, infrastructure, governance and environment. GORA Corp recognizes that gender analysis is one of the cornerstones of gender mainstreaming, but is often a weak link in the overall programme planning process.

It involves efforts to understand if, how and why issues affect women and men differently and unequally within a particular context or development sector, and what options exist to address them. The principle of GORA Corp is to promote the incorporation of explicit and measurable result indicators for gender equality and women’s empowerment in monitoring and evaluation systems in all urban sectors.

It promotes the principle of mutual accountability that supports the development or improvement of accountability mechanisms such as gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) and gender audits to hold city authorities, national governments and partners to account for their work to reduce gender gaps and empower women.

At the Observatory level, GORA Corp supports the establishment and development of gender-sensitive indicators in ensuring that all indicators are disaggregated by sex and other relevant determinants of gender disparities in daily life and in all spheres.

At the Policy/Action level, GORA assists city authorities and national government to establish targets and indicators aim to take into consideration the needs of the poorest and most marginalized people in societies, explicitly including women from socially excluded groups.

Here, GORA supports cities to link gender mainstreaming and human rights-based approaches in the development of urban policies and to ensure gender equality, non-discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity, particularly in urban planning, access to land and housing and protection against eviction.

GORA believes that mainstreaming gender perspectives in programme planning must not be seen as a standalone exercise but embrace all processes and sectors. Urban legislation and Governance must be developed in a way it responds to need of women and children. It must be translated through all processes, including budgetary allocations, institutional arrangements, administrative procedures and monitoring standards for stronger accountability to women and girls.

GORA support city authorities and national governments to apply gender mainstreaming throughout the overarching programming cycle of each thematic sector of urban development programme, following a well-known sequence of Observatory linking Research to Action (ORA): Observatory, development of policy/actions, budget planning, monitoring and evaluation, programme results and reporting.

GORA support cities to develop a gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) that city budgets include the necessary financial resources to implement goals and policy commitments to gender equality objectives.

It assists city to generate evidence on the impact of public expenditures, and on financing gaps and requirements through gender budget analysis tools, and provide guidance for the involvement all stakeholders in budget decisions, and in budget implementation and monitoring through stakeholders consultation and dialogue.

One of the concepts that Gora Corp is working on is child friendly cities, what is it about and as Gora have you developed the concept for any city in the world?

The concept of Child Friendly Cities (CFC) is an embodiment of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the local level, where children’s rights are reflected in policies, laws, programmes and budgets. In a child friendly city, children are active agents; and their voices and opinions are taken into consideration and influence decision making processes on various aspects such as Social Inclusion, Participation & Equality: children influence decisions about their city; express their opinion on the city they want; Participate in family, community and social life; participate in cultural and social events; and be an equal citizen of their city with access to every service.

Environment: Existence of green spaces and an unpolluted environment.

Infrastructure & Service Provision: children receive basic services such as health care and education; and access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Safety & Security: children being protected from exploitation, violence and abuse; walk safely in the streets on their own; meet friends and play.

In November 2014, GORA Corp conceptualized the child-friendly cities within its conceptual framework of Sustainable, Inclusive and Prosperous Cities. For a city to be smart child-friendly it must be sustainable, inclusive and prosperous.

It must promote a people-centered approach on various dimensions such as: city foundation, infrastructure, environment, economy development, social development, social inclusion, disaster exposure, resilience, peace & security, and institutions & laws. This have been presented at the “ Building Smart Child-Friendly Cities for 21st Century India.

GORA Corp introduces this conceptual in assisting cities to establish Observatory linking Reseasrch to Action (ORA) such as in in two states of Nigeria, Kogi and Ondo.