Gender-Inclusive Built Environment- a concept for policy making

Planning Dated:  Sept. 16, 2015
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Gender Equality and Urban Development

Our Indian sub-continent is gradually emerging as a powerful land since women began playing significant role for the development of the nation. Role of woman in modern India can be called as phenomenal. The transition of woman from the past to present is worth mentioning. Woman who once considered being the masters in the art of home making are now considered to be the forces that shape a country.

There is no arena, which remained unconquered by Indian women. The status of women in modern India is a sort of a paradox.. She can now be seen working on par with men in every field. As compared with past women in modern times have achieved a lot but in reality they have to still travel a long way. Their path is full of roadblocks. The women have left the secured domain of their home and are now in the battlefield of life, fully armoured with their talent.

In urban planning and designing gender inclusive decisions are essential to create:

1.  Accessible and affordable infrastructure and services for water supply and sanitation, waste disposal, electricity, transport and housing; 
2.  Employment and income-generating opportunities through formal and informal labour markets; and 
3.  Safety and security for all citizens in growing urban neighbourhoods.

1.    For creating gender inclusive infrastructure and service we should develop:

  • Mechanisms involving women in the planning, designing, management, operation and maintenance of urban infrastructure and services.
  • Creation of gender-responsive physical design of urban infrastructure vendor markets, bus and train terminals, municipal buildings, and separate male and female toilets in public spaces and buildings and ensuring accessibility and affordability of basic services such as water supply and sanitation, electricity, waste disposal system.
  • Women and men have different priorities and needs in terms of  infrastructure and services regarding water supply and sanitation, transport, and housing. Women’s lack participation or low representation in decision-    making processes related to urban services and governance and therefore their needs and priorities are rarely considered in urban planning, transport and health care services.

 2.    For creating Employment and income-generating opportunities of women through formal and informal sectors actions should be taken on the following:

  • Training of women as engineers and technicians, sanitation, masons, system operators, and bill collectors.
  • Promote both skilled and unskilled women’s access to employment in infrastructure construction, operation, and maintenance with decent working conditions.
  • Promote wage parity between men and women in construction and civil works. Consider maintenance contracts for women’s groups for small civil works, roadside maintenance, drainage clearance, solid waste management, etc.
  • Poor women’s employment and entrepreneurship can be supported and enhanced through expanding local markets, simplifying business registration procedures.
  • Provision of off-peak bus services, and regularizing labor contracts for civil works to hire local labour with equal wage.
  • Women’s participation and representation in decision-making bodies.
  • Addressing Safety and security issues.

3.    For Safety and security for all citizens in growing urban neighbourhoods the essential requirements are:

  • Provide better access to water, sanitation, transport, and security services in the area.
  • Consider mixed-use zoning (residential and commercial) allowance in low-income housing settlements to promote women’s home-based enterprises.
  • Zoning and land use planning that offer poor households security of tenure close to informal markets and employment centers. If relocation of households is inevitable due to infrastructure construction, consideration should be given in locating new housing developments with better access to water and sanitation facilities, transport, security services and close to markets or manufacturing centers or both.
  • For physical safety and security it is important to provide street and lane lighting, pavements, and sidewalks in urban settlements.
  • Provide links with local police units for safety and security.
  • Consider conducting “violence against women” surveys, safety audits, and exploratory walks.

To achieve gender equality results in development, government agencies and their partner institutions in project implementation need to integrate gender-inclusive measures in their operational work and institutional policies and strategies to development programs.

The proposed action plan should be:

1.  Include gender equality issues in making policy procedures, and operations manuals.

2.  Promote more women in government, nongovernment, and private service providers.

3.  Train female worker as heads of water user and sanitation committees in understanding their roles, and provide them with leadership skills.

4.  Engage women as staff, consultants, and facilitators.

5.  Provide gender awareness training for executing and implementing agencies, and municipal bodies.

6.  Expose project directors and staff to good practices in gender mainstreaming through study visits, peer exchanges, and lateral learning forums.

7.  Assist sector agencies with development of institutional gender strategies covering both operational work and human resources development policies.

8.  Improve the capacities of executing agencies and project implementing units to collect, analyze, and use sex-disaggregated data.

9.  Establish sex-disaggregated monitoring, reporting, and evaluation systems.

10.  Use proven tools, such as gender action plans, to guide implementation and achievement of gender-related targets and activities in project and program works.

The measures to be taken for creating gender inclusive development are the following:

1.    Capacity Building  of women’s groups

  • Improve capacity of women’s groups and informal neighbourhood networks to engage in urban planning and decision -making process.
  • New housing settlements should close to markets and employment centers.
  • Consider a housing design that will provide women with adequate space and facilities(i.e., work space, storage, and lighting for home-based income-generating activities)
  • Provide electrical outlets in cooking areas to allow for the possible use of electrical appliances in the future (this may encourage families to save money for the purchase of labor-saving devices).
  • Design simple house plans that could easily be expanded as household income grows.
  • Promote community-based savings and credit groups to give the urban poor and women access to small loans for incremental housing improvements.
  • Consider women’s needs in accessing water points; number, types, and location of facilities; and child safety.
  • Consider women’s preferences on technology (community taps or pumps, household connection,and wells), and individual or shared facilities.
  • Design water infrastructure to be women-friendly, e.g., hand pumps or taps they can operate easily.

2.    Creation of privacy and security

Involve women in decisions taking process on any development right from sanitation facilities, transport sector, security services and manufacturing centers or both. 

3.    Develop a gender inclusive Urban Transport (Mass Transit Systems)

Women and men have different needs and constraints and are affected differently by transport services. Well designed, gender- responsive urban transport services can

  • improve women’s access to education, health, and social services;
  • provide easier and faster access to markets and employment
  • Increase returns with higher usage uptake as women are often the main users of public transport;
  • Better respond to demand for all users, both men and women.
  • Gender-responsive physical design features and infrastructure systems can improve transport service accessibility, safety and security, convenience, and affordability.
  • Consider separate sections/coach for female passengers, and separate female carriages on rail services.
  • Consider whether the steps are too high for women to climb,   whether the handrails are too high for women to reach; and make space for strollers, baby carriages, and shopping bags.
  • Ensure separate male and female toilets at bus and rail stations. Ensure well-lit stations, bus stops, and surrounding areas for security and safety.
  • Assess affordability of transport services and multimodal ticketing.
  • Consider bus and train schedules that meet needs of both men and women (during both peak and off-peak hours).
  • Employ female transport workers - drivers, ticket sellers and collectors, and station attendants.

For facilitating conditions that are necessary for gender mainstreaming, the essential prerequisites are political will, specific gender equality policy, female participation in the decision taking processes and allocation of adequate funding for successful translation of the concept into practice.

This paper is part of the WIA publication brought out at the Women in Architecture Conference organized jointly by the IIA Northern Chapter, SPA and SPA Alumni on June 06, 2015.

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