Nairobi 9 May 2017-- The 26th Session of the UN-Habitat Governing Council provided the perfect opportunity for the 2nd Gender Forum. The Gender Forum brings together women and men passionate about sustainable development, gender equality and women’s empowerment. This year the theme was ‘Achieving Gender Equality in a Fast Urbanizing World.’

The Gender Forum provided a platform for many passionate women to share ideas about how women can participate in urban governance and the help achieve the vision of the New Urban Agenda. Women from all corners of the globe spoke about their own experiences, the challenges in their communities and the amazing work they are doing. The room was a hive of activity, passion and solidarity.

With over 50 men and women present, Aminata Traoré, a former Minister and gender activist from Mali, discussed the changing global political landscape and urged women to rethink their approach and adapt to the shifting circumstances. With over 40 years’ experience in politics and activism, she has seen the women’s movement evolve, but it must continue to do so in order to remain relevant and address new challenges.

Sri Sofjan (Huairou Commission) stressed the importance of access to information. Women cannot fight for their rights without knowing national and local policies, budgets and processes. Networks are vital to share knowledge and experience. For example, in 2017, women’s groups are organizing Urban Thinkers Campus’ in at least 6 countries in Africa and engaging their governments through this.

Participants from various women’s networks shared their experience and the discussion developed clear themes. It was emphasized the need to listen to and engage with grassroots women. These women know their communities and have been organizing and pushing for gender equality their whole lives. Governments, NGOs and international organisations must build on the experiences of those living in poverty.

Participants stressed the importance of equal access to land and property. Women’s economic opportunities and safety are severely impeded and poor security of tenure. This is at the core of UN-Habitat work. Similarly, participants were concerned about women’s unequal access to basic services, particularly clean water and sanitation. Cities provide significant opportunity to address these inequalities, but targeted action must be taken.

The discussion also highlighted the importance of engaging men in gender equality. The empowerment of women will benefit all, but progress will be difficult if men are not engaged, at all levels. Political, business, religious and family leaders must all be involved and push for gender equality.

The event concluded by acknowledging the progress that has been made, the challenges that remain and indeed, new unforeseen challenges. Women and men must continue to fight for gender equality.