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Project Background

Around the world, in both low and high income countries, girls and young women feel that cities are not safe places for them to be. Girls and young women frequently feel uncomfortable, unsafe and intimidated on their city streets and in public places (including public transport). 

The consequences of street harassment run deep. When girls and women are frequently made to feel afraid, to the point of avoiding public places, they are being denied the space and opportunity to work, study or play in their own cities. When they feel excluded from public spaces, they are excluded from the opportunities the city offers to everyone else. 

For example, Plan International’s research shows that street harassment or abuse causes some girls drop out of education or paid work. Some avoid the city altogether, confined to their home or neighbourhood. This affects their future employment prospects and ability to lead independent lives and become active and engaged citizens.

To be groped, cat-called and abused in public is too often regarded as ‘just a normal part of being a girl’. Girls are led to believe it is their fault. Many feel that there is little point in reporting harassment, abuse or violence to the authorities, perceiving that they have neither the will nor the power to do anything about it.  

The problem is widespread, 45% of girls in Kampala reported sexual harassment when using public transport.

Project Overview

The Safer Cities for Girls program goal is to build safe, accountable and inclusive cities with and for adolescent girls through increasing their safety and access to public spaces, enabling their safe mobility in the city; and increasing their active and meaningful participation in the design of urban environment.

Preventing and addressing gender-based violence and sexual harassment in public spaces and transport sectors is a key focus and the program aims to transform pervasive social and cultural norms that allow for unequal power dynamics, gender based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

By engaging adolescent girls as active agents of change, building their individual capacity and collective agency to engage with decision makers we can identify and address issues for girls’ safety and inclusion in cities like Kampala. 

The program works at multiple levels: with institutions and organisation to make services and environments receptive and inclusive of girls’ safety and interests; and with families, communities, adolescent girls and boys to promote gender equality, and girls’ rights, safety and inclusion.

Key Project Strategies

  • The engagement of Champions of Change – a community-wide approach to gender equality and social norm change through peer-to-peer youth engagement. This school based program includes a training curriculum for adolescent girls on gender equality and empowerment, and a curriculum for adolescent boys to challenge and transform harmful gender norms, and build a social movement for the promotion of gender equality and new models of masculinities.
  • Training curriculums for transit staff to enhance their understanding of gender equality and girls’ rights and the need for safe and inclusive planning, policies and services.
  • Establishment of youth clubs and safe spaces.
  • Safety Walks and Community Score Card processes.
  • Intergenerational interface meetings and forums for girls, boys, community members, government representatives and transport operators to share challenges and develop solutions to make cities more gender-equitable, safe and inclusive.     

What's Covered in Project Cost

  • 1,230 adolescent girls and 438 boys in schools and communities are engaged in Champions of Change, through curriculum, project activities and events.
  • 56 teachers in 10 schools; 35 community facilitators provided with Champions of Change training.
  • 400 transport workers trained and supported to increase their awareness and take action. 
  • 4,825 males; 6,653 female community members and parents increase awareness through project materials; public awareness campaigns; inter-generational dialogue.

Project Outcomes

  • Key stakeholders (local authorities, law enforcement, schools etc.) are engaged to have increased capacity and willingness to promote girls' safety.
  • Transport authorities and staff are engaged to promote and support the safety of adolescent girls.
  • Increased willingness of bystanders to protect and support girls when experiencing harassment and insecurity on transport systems.
  • Increased capacity of adolescent girls to take on leadership roles in their communities on girls’ safety.
  • Increased awareness and engagement of adolescent boys as Champions of Change for gender equality, girl’s rights and safety.
  • Girl-led initiatives on their rights to safety are supported by families, communities and authorities.
  • Community managed public spaces are safe and inclusive of adolescent girls.

Part of a Larger Strategy

At present there are five cities taking part in the project including Kampala, Hanoi (funded previously by the Footprints Network), and Delhi. Our ambition is to expand the program to 20 cities by 2020.

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