Gender Mainstreaming for Sustainable Urban Development : Case discussed for Displaced population

Planning Dated:  Sept. 2, 2015
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Sustainable Urban Development in India

Good laws and good governance are the basis of effective and sustainable human settlements. Increasing urbanisation the world over has dramatically increased, demographic, environmental, social, economic pressures posing challenges that place, new demands on urban authorities to craft new policies and regulatory frameworks, for managing equitable urban growth.

This paper focuses attention on Urban Legislation for mainstreaming women in order to highlight the “where and how” of gender responsive interventions that strengthen gender equality and women empowerment in urban development. This also focuses attention on benefits and future actions  to  advance gender equality and women empowerment.

Research Paper deals on How can gender can be mainstreamed into interventions, projects, programmes developed to address the urban/ human settlement issues in order to achieve sustainable development, particularly with focus of achieving equity during a crisis situation.

Urban legislation & Governance:

Cities experience large and small scale disasters that can pose great challenges to sustainable development, for natural and human-made disasters have enormous economic, social and political impacts on human lives. “Cities, where half of humanity currently resides and much of the world’s assets are concentrated, are fast becoming the locus for much of the destruction and loss from disasters.”  These risks will increase as urban populations continue to grow. Disasters can present opportunities for transformative change to begin and advance more quickly because the vulnerabilities that emerge as a result of crisis or disaster are clearer and consensus may be obtained more quickly to mitigate vulnerabilities. Population displacements as a result of disasters further create new settlements that present opportunities for planning how municipalities or cities will be managed and planned to cope, in equitable ways, with population changes.

Urbanisation affects women and men in fundamentally different ways given the social differences or roles allotted to women and to men. Since these roles are not equally valued

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further create inequities between women, girls, boys and men. For urban women and girls, these different experiences and ways of experiencing urban life give rise to consequences that undermine their capabilities and aspirations.

Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved (Beijing Declaration, Strategic Objective G, 1995). Women are under-represented at all levels of decision-making in institutions of national or decentralised governance, which limits their ability and power to influence laws, policies and governance. The low status of women, discrimination against women, unequal power distribution between women and men and the social and cultural devaluing of women, limits their equal access and participation in governance.

Recognizing Gendered Nature of Urbanization:

Effective urban planning, management and governance require laws or regulatory frameworks that are gender sensitive and responsive.

Authorities must recognize that securing land tenure and property rights for all are fundamental to housing and livelihoods and must work towards addressing gender discrimination faced by the society’s poor and other vulnerable groups.

Urban authorities must be attentive to the different behaviour, aspirations and needs of women and men with both equally valued so that the provision and

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of urban services, or the planning of urban spaces does not give rise to different consequences that reinforce inequalities.

Participatory and inclusive processes are important to understand experiences and enact change and, therefore, need to be developed and undertaken to help women, youth, and the poor engage in the development of appropriate governance, legislative and regulatory frameworks Urban safety must be recognised as a core part of progressive urban development. 

Integrating Women's Empowerment Need(s) into Urban Legislation.

Rules and regulations constitute a key instrument in urban management and development. It is therefore crucial to identify those laws, regulations and legal processes that infringe on human rights and/or discriminate against women. It is also important to identify the assumptions and cultural norms that underpin those rules and laws so that in the long term, fundamental change can be engendered. Appropriate legislation is therefore critical for steering actions and legislative reform processes that promote women participation in urban local government. This is, however, not enough. Creating awareness to change attitudes that sustain discrimination against women, capacity building of urban authorities to oversee implementation and enforcement and allocation of adequate resources must be availed to support the realization of laws that recognize women rights.

Women's Empowerment and Urban Legislation

Law reflects a society’s values. Appropriate and gender sensitive urban law and legislation is, therefore, required to underpin women’s right to equal opportunities in urban development processes and to ensure and secure access to rights, such as decent and affordable housing, secure tenure and economic empowerment.

1. Governance and Safety: Violence and crime denies women and girls their freedom and their right to be full and equal participants in virtually every aspect of life: from taking part in decision-making processes, to education, to work, to recreation, to public and political life. When women and girls live with fear, there can be no talk of progress towards gender equality, sustainable development, justice, or democracy. More than half of the World’s population live in cities and that figure is expected to increase to almost 5 billion by 2030. This increase in urban population and changing understandings around how people experience urban living, and thus how planning and governance arrangements must be operationalized, calls on urban policy makers to recognize and respond to the emerging and different needs, concerns and interests of urban women, men, boys and girls. Urban Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation Empowering women’s participation and inclusion in the processes that develop urban policies, laws, decisions and practices for the management and development of urban environments is crucial to ensuring that the urban development agenda is influenced by those it intends to benefit. Thus, governments around the world have used either affirmative action or established quotas using constitutional or legal strategies.

2. Enabling Environment key to Women Empowerment: Key to empowering women’s participation and inclusion in urban institutions is the promotion of an enabling environment for civil society and women’s organisations to participate in, support, monitor and hold urban authorities’ accountable without the fear of reprisal. It is also about developing knowledge to analyse, understand and suggest incremental changes to the urban law making processes and indeed, the urban laws and regulations themselves which will ultimately result in the long term inclusion of both women and men in the urban development process. Such change involves training, information dissemination, reviews of approaches to planning etc. to see how urban law is involved in achieving the empowerment of both men and women in urban contexts.

Good Practices in Urban Legislation

UN Habitat (2015) published gender responsive Urban legislation summarized here as follows:

  • Ensure that women’s rights and gender equality are central to the development of urban legislation and regulations.
  • Gender analysis is undertaken to inform the development of urban legislation and regulations that will promote equal benefit and equality between women and men.
  • Women’s rights and gender equality targets are therefore reflected in the way cities and municipalities are managed, planned and financed.
  • Develop a process for community based consultations with all key stakeholders inclusive of women, especially poor women, youth and minority groups wherever a re-examination of the prevailing urban legal order is to be undertaken.
  • Recognize that women, poor women and girls face numerous constraints given their gender roles, responsibilities and discrimination in participating in consultative or decision-making processes.
  • Ensure that urban legal interventions or legal reforms especially with regards to how land is managed, how municipalities or towns are to be planned; and how rights to basic services, housing and economic resources are being expressed are effectively targeting and benefiting the poorest women, girls, boys and men.
  • Collect sex-disaggregated data and undertake gender analysis to ensure effective targeting of interventions.
  • Monitor implementation processes to measure progress in targeting the needs of women, girls, boys and men.
  • Evaluate and report on results of the interventions to assess whether the interventions have indeed been effective in benefiting the poorest women, girls, boys and men.

Table 1.0 Urban legislation: Examples of gender-sensitive indicators.

Expected Outcome

Illustrative Indicators

Empowering urban laws and  regulation reflect the rights of women, men, girls and boys.


Participatory processes in place that ensure the voices of

vulnerable groups, especially poor women will be heard in local law making processes.

Gender sensitive judiciary and decision makers

Accountability for gender equality and equity strengthened


Evidence of urban legislative reform to develop an inclusive and equitable urban social and economic environment. Evidence of gender mainstreaming in legislative scrutiny and reforming the prevailing urban legal order.

Urban legislation tools developed for the gender responsive assessment of urban legal systems and for the analysis of the regulatory impacts of urban legislative processes on women and men.

Enhanced access to urban resources

Urban legislation and legal tools implemented that enable urban contexts to develop in an inclusive manner by facilitating equal access to urban resources by women, men and youth.

Laws and regulations implemented in relation to encouraging the participation of women in urban development action area projects

Gender equity and equality is fostered


Affirmative action, such as gender quotas or legislative and leadership training, developed and implemented to promote women’s representation and participation in urban local government.

Source: UN- Habitat 2015

Gender sensitivity, equity important in Disaster or Crisis.

During Jammu & Kashmir Flood of 2014, 600 villages submerged under water and millions of people displaced  when women and men confront disasters or crisis, their responses tend to mirror their status, role and position in society.

• Accounts of disaster situations worldwide show that responsibilities follow traditional gender roles, with women’s work carrying over from traditional tasks in the home and household, and men taking on leadership positions.

• Gender-based inequalities can put women and girls at high risk and make them particularly vulnerable during natural disasters. There are many casualties among women in disasters, for example, if they do not receive timely warnings or other information about hazards and risks or if their mobility is restricted or otherwise affected due to cultural or social constraints.

•  Field accounts repeatedly demonstrate how unwritten or unexamined policies and practices disadvantage girls and women in emergencies, for example, marginalizing them in food distribution systems, limiting their access to paid relief work programmes and excluding them from decision-making positions in relief and reconstruction efforts.

• Emergency relief workers’ lack of awareness of gender-based inequalities can further perpetuate gender bias and put women at an increased disadvantage in access to relief measures and other opportunities and benefits.

•  The direct and indirect impact of disasters on women’s lives and livelihoods extend to their aftermath.  Gender-based attitudes and stereotypes can complicate and extend women’s recovery, for example,  if women do not seek or receive timely care for physical and mental trauma. Other factors that expand on the above concerns and help account for differences in women’s and men’s vulnerability to natural hazards and their post-crisis aftermath include:

•  Early warning systems, where these exist, are most often designed by men, often without consideration of whether they are effective for transmitting warnings to women. Studies have shown that women are often not aware of early warning messages that could protect their lives;

•  In relation to men, women have less access to resources – including money, social networks and  influence, transportation, information, education (including literacy), control over land and other economic resources, personal mobility, secure housing and employment, freedom from violence and control over decision-making - that are essential in disaster preparedness, mitigation and rehabilitation.

•  Because women are often caregivers – responsible for care of children and the elderly, sick or disabled – they have less mobility than men. More women than men died during the 2005 Tsunami primarily because women drowned trying to save children and the elderly who were in their care. 

Poor quality housing and construction that does not respect safety codes affects women more than men, since in many cultures women are more frequently at home when disaster strikes; likewise, building in high-risk areas – on steep slopes or floodplains – similarly places women, children, the very old, the ill and disabled at higher risk;

•  In many societies, women do not have the liberty of migrating to look for work before or following a disaster. Men, on the other hand, often do migrate from poverty-stricken and disaster prone areas,  leaving behind very high numbers of female-headed households.

•  Women’s poverty and poor working conditions greatly increase their vulnerability to natural disasters. In relation to men, they are overrepresented as agricultural workers, in self-employment and the informal economy, in under-paid jobs with little security and no benefits such as employment insurance and healthcare.

Disaster overview of Jammu Flood 2014:

The Jammu and Kashmir government sounded a flood alert for the state on September 4, 2014 after three days of incessant rain which had flooded 23 villages. By September 6 the flooding was recognized as the worst in 50 years and the death toll had risen to 150. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdulla, estimated on September 6 that 390 villages were inundated. The Prime Minister declared a national emergency on the 7th of September. Heavy rainfall has caused

1) flash flooding with localized damage across the state, 
2) landslides, which impacted on communities and road connectivity and 
3) widespread flooding in the Kashmir Valley. 

Fig 1.1 Flood Affected Areas of Jammu & Kashmir

Flood Affected Areas of Jammu & KashmirFlood Affected Areas of Jammu & Kashmir

Flood waters breached embankments in many low-lying areas in Kashmir, including the capital Srinagar, forcing people to move to safer places. The Jhelum River, Chenab and many other streams have been flowing above danger mark. The worst affected districts are Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Budgam, Rajouri, Poonch and Reasi. To date (September 11), 215 human lives have been reported lost. Many people are still stranded in various parts of state. It has been reported that 450 villages, with an estimated rural population of 8.23 lacs were flooded, with farmlands being submerged. The Jhelum river has been flowing four feet above danger mark in Srinagar. Links of valley to the rest of the country will take about four to five days to open again. 300-km-long national highway has been closed to vehicular traffic for five days because of landslides and floods. As many as 60 major and minor roads have been cut off and over 30 bridges washed away, hampering the relief and rescue operations. 

People Jammu & Kashmir underwent Internal displacement many times earlier also one of them was during Kargil war when they had to leave their farmlands and houses to live in cluster colonies few kilometers away due to LOC. The worst century flood of 2014,  600 villages inundated due to submergence during flood. A survey of the displaced population based on their causes of displacement, duration of stay and accessibility to basic infrastructure and human rights violation, based on which recommendations made for intervention in legislation.

Fig 1.2 Status of Displaced Population.

Displaced Population
Displaced Population
Source: sphere India
Sustainable Urban Development
Sustainable Urban Development
Sustainable Human Settlements
Sustainable Human Settlements
Pre and Post flood Situation           Pre and Post flood Situation

mpact on life cycle costs. 

Development of guidelines for Ephemeral architecture, based on Urban planning theory for designing of temporary human settlement for IDP in order to enhance community empowerment and participation in management of camps.

Development of Cohesive communities - To understand the hetrogenity and varied composition of displaced population, and plan for a cohesive communities instead of isolated cells of socio-economic and cultural segregation.


1. To have national resettlement policies in all countries of South Asia, and these policies should cover displacements due to violence and environmental-developmental reasons both.

2. Consultative mechanisms have to be devised so that in the formulation of policies for  the relief and rehabilitation of the IDPs by the government institutions and national and international NGOs, the experiences, opinions and preferences of the displaced themselves are given utmost priority.

3. State surveys should be conducted in all countries of the region in order to have a comprehensive idea about the nature and magnitude of displacement. These surveys should not be bureaucratically planned; they should be planned in a consultative and deliberative way.

4.  The national human rights institutions have to be sensitised more about the perils of the IDPs in the respective countries. These institutions can contribute significantly to the  formulation of the national IDP policies.

5.  In order to make people aware of the rights of the IDPs, more popular-level campaigns need  to be organised.

6.  Apart from the national policies on IDPs, a South Asian regional policy on the IDPs would also  be crucial. A mechanism to monitor the situation of the IDPs at the regional level may also be considered.

7.  Gender Sensitive Facilities in Make shift camps : there is a need for  looking after the educational and health-related facilities in these camps. It is also     important to devise policies on sanitation of the camps. The security of the camp-dwellers has also  to be ensured.
8.  The obligation to resettle should be considered as equally important as the displaced persons’ right to return, and their empowered role in participation of camps

9.  Special attention must be paid to female-headed households.

  • Voices of Internationally displaced people : /voices.pdf
  • Corsellis T. & Vitale A. (2005); Transitional Settlement for displaced population, University of Cambridge, shelter Project. Oxfam.
  • Chalinder Andrew (1998); Temporary Human Settlement Planning for displaced population in emergencies, Good Practice Review, Relief & Rehabilitation Network ODI.
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