New York, 29 March 2017 – At the recent 61st Commission on the Status of Women, UN-Habitat hosted a series of multi-stakeholder events at the UN Headquarters to make certain that the role of women in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda is well understood and the realization of inclusive, economically viable and sustainable cities is achieved.

The recently sworn-in Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed, opened the first panel of gender and development leaders by emphasizing the critical role of the New Urban Agenda in achieving the vision for sustainable and inclusive societies by 2030. “Given the megatrend of rapid urbanization, achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will depend, in large part, on whether we can make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, Ms Mohammed said.

Susceptibility to poverty traps and natural disasters, unemployment and lack of opportunities for education impede women across the globe from becoming active members of their societies, therefore halting the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Space for engagement

At the second session, hosted by the Ford Foundation, member state representatives and global and local civil society leaders discussed the fundamental need for inclusive design, planning and governing of human settlements in achieving the vision of the New Urban Agenda.

The event gave stage to the distinguished panel of global experts and leaders in the fields of gender policy, public policy and urbanism. UN-Habitat’s Deputy Executive Director, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, set the tone for the evening by reminding the attendees that: “People are looking for a sense of belonging in their city. People want their voices valued. People want to have space in their cities; space for play, for debate, for engagement with their leaders and for connecting among themselves.”

Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development in Canada, discussed the critical nature of accessibility of public services, such as robust transit networks, public spaces and adequate shelter, for all urban residents.

Ana Falú, Vice Chair of the UN-Habitat Advisory Group on Gender Issues, focused on the importance of distinguishing the cultural and societal stigmas of women in the economic and social realms of cities as a crucial starting point for implementing inclusive and gender-balance urban strategies.

Cities as engines of socioeconomic empowerment

The event ignited engagement from the attendees. The representative of the Ecuador Permanent Mission to the UN highlighted the crucial nature of the New Urban Agenda for Ecuador’s sustainable urban future and urged the audience to consider the exigent need for governments across the globe to engage with the New Urban Agenda and implement inclusive and sustainable national urban policies.

Finally, the Population Council gathered a full room of scholars, policy-makers, urban leaders and urban activists to discuss the critical nature of cities as engines of socio-economic empowerment for women and girls. The event covered a wide array of topics, ranging from migration, infrastructure and social integration as they relate to girls’ successful transition to urban agglomerations and, consequently, to their vitality within the social and economic realms of their communities.

The event presented an esteemed panel of speakers, each bringing distinctive and valuable perspectives to the table. Sarah Engebretsen of the Population Council, introduced a summary of comprehensive research findings of the newly-published “Girls on the Move: Adolescent Girls & Migration in the Developing World” report, where she pointed out the important distinction between the different temporal stages of young girls’ migration to urban settlements: pre-migration stage, in-transit and early arrival stage and the settling stage.

Although each of the migration stages presents a unique set of challenges, risks and opportunities for young girls, Ms. Engebretsen asserted that a number of factors, such as safe and reliable networks, access to safe shelter upon arrival, general understanding of the available resources and access to community services and groups, can largely improve the experience of such transition.