Nairobi, 12 May 2020  - As part of the COVID-19 Urban Thinkers Campus Series organized by the World Urban Campaign, two online events, which attracted over 125 participants, discussed safety in cities and communities. 

The first session was hosted by the Red Dot Foundation (India), Polycom Development (Kenya) and Colegio Nacional de Jurisprudencia Urbanistica (CNJUR, Mexico). The second session was hosted by the Huairou Commission and held in Spanish to engage participants from Latin America, with key speakers from Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina and Nicaragua.

With lockdowns and restrictions in many countries, reports of domestic violence have risen.  Participants confirmed the increase pointing out those affected had little opportunity for support. Ms. Rekha Sharma, Chairperson from the National Commission for Women, India, explained there were measures such as helplines to support women facing abuse.

ElsaMarie D’Silva, Founder and CEO of the Red Dot Foundation (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces based in Mumbai, explained that the solution relies on raising awareness but also on better data and safe, anonymous reporting mechanisms for survivors of abuse.

“We should not wait for a crisis such as the COVID-19 crisis to act on better knowledge and education on sexual violence. The current pandemic is just revealing the safety gaps women and girls face” she said.

Jane Odyango, from Polycom Development, a grass-roots organization working in Nairobi and Kisumu, Kenya, explained that in the slums there was a lack of access to water and basic hygiene and called for better data to know where food, water, mask and sanitizers should be delivered. She outlined the importance of community knowledge and of partnering with grassroot organizations to improve support for the most vulnerable.

Similar scenarios were described by women groups of Latin America, as presented by Huairou Commission representatives  - Sara Valadez, from MIRA México, Ingrid Ciego from Huairou Guatemala, Haydee Rodríguez, President of Las Brumas cooperative of Nicaragua, Nadine Gasman, President of INMUJERES Mexico, Relinda Sosa, Coordinator at GROOTS-Peru, and Vanessa Villegas from Argentina.

Olenka Ochoa, President of FEMUM Peru, moderated a lively discussion around the effect of quarantines and lockdowns on livelihoods and increasing domestic violence. Participants outlined the crucial role of organized communities including women’s networks to put pressure on governments to obtain better support and services for the most vulnerable communities.

Pablo Aguilar, President of CNJUR, an association working on urban jurisprudence in Latin America, said the pandemic had brought in a new crisis on basic human rights.

He said in many countries, people were worried about the violation of their privacy and had experienced a drop in their rights to property, culture and economic activities.  He added that “in the post recovery period, we need to promote a new legal urbanism based in a bundle of protections for the citizens.”

Further sessions of the COVID-19 Urban Thinkers Campuses series will be held online in May to discuss current actions on the ground in different contexts, analyze good practices and solutions, extract lessons from the crisis and make recommendations for building resilience. For more information and to register go to