UN Launches Initiative to Make Cities Safer for Women and Children


United Nations, New York — UNICEF, UN-HABITAT and UN Women launch “Safe and Friendly Cities for All", a five-year programme that aims at making women and children feel safer in their local neighbourhoods, while improving their quality of life.

This partnership initiative builds on prior experience that all three organizations have accumulated on preventing gender-based violence, using innovative tools for child and youth engagement in urban settings, and promoting integrated crime prevention strategies in cities.

By working with local municipalities, women's groups, child and youth advocates, the joint initiative will focus on increasing safety among women, youth and children, and preventing and reducing violence, including sexual harassment and violence against women and girls in public spaces.

More than half of the world's population — approximately 3.4 billion people — live in cities today. This number is projected to increase to 69 percent by 2050. With this rapid urbanization come increased risks for the citizens of urban areas, especially women and children. Currently, one billion people are living in urban slums and are denied basic human rights, such as access to safe housing and reliable health services.

Global crime rates jumped by about 30 percent between 1980 and 2000, and between 2002 and 2007, approximately 60 percent of urban residents in developing countries reported that they had been the victims of crime. Many of these are women and young girls, facing sexual assault or harassment on streets, public transport or in their own neighbourhoods.

The new partnership will address these challenges by supporting a variety of initiatives in the participating cities. By working with local authorities and organizations on the ground, women and young people will be able to identify those areas in their neighbourhood where they feel most at risk, and find solutions together.

Potential interventions may include:

  • Enabling women and young people to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives such as decisions on budgets and local infrastructure
  • Establishing female councillor-led committees for effective response to sexual violence and crimes in communities
  • Increasing street lights in high-risk areas, including the use of solar lights which are cost-effective and more resilient to damage and vandalism
  • Training of community police units to prevent gender-based violence

The five-year initiative will be piloted with municipal leaders. Dushanbe, Greater Beirut, Metro Manila, Marrakesh, Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, San José and Tegucigalpa are among the cities currently being considered.

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For more information, please contact:

  • Janine Kandel, UNICEF, New York, jkandel[at]unicef.org, +1 212 326-7684
  • Jeanette Elsworth, UN-HABITAT, Nairobi, jeanette.elsworth[at]unhabitat.org, +254 20 762-5518
  • Oisika Chakrabarti, UN Women, New York, oisika.chakrabarti[at]unwomen.org, +1 646 781-4522