At present, rapid urbanization is challenging both national and local governments in their role to develop compact, inclusive, connected and integrated cities able to achieve spatial equality, job creation, human and community development, strategic infrastructure and environmental sustainability. In this process of fast urbanization, the failure to fully mainstream gender equality into urban planning, legislation and economic development is hindering the inclusiveness of cities and preventing the full integration of women and girls in the economic, social, political and cultural life of cities and therefore the realization of the just city.
Women and men, girls and boys, experience urbanization and cities differently and benefit differently from the opportunities available therein. Compared to rural areas, cities offer more diverse employment opportunities to increase financial independence; greater ease in accessing education at different levels, better access to healthcare; more opportunities to socialize outside the home; more prospects to take up community or political leadership roles and, most notably, more possibilities to redefine the traditional roles of men and women.
Nevertheless, gender inequalities persist, therefore, women and girls benefit less from urbanization and the urban space than men and boys. In fact, women and girls in cities will face a range of specific barriers and vulnerabilities: gender inequality, violence against women, poverty, unpaid care-work, limited control over assets, unequal participation in public and private decision-making, and barriers to education, employment, housing and basic services.
Nowhere are the inequalities facing urban woman more evident than in informal settlements where women account for over half the population. In these settlements, women face the most serious urban challenges: poverty; overcrowding, sexual harassment and assault, and lack of access to security of tenure, water and sanitation, transport and sexual and reproductive health services.
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