First Asian Women’s Network Forum


UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, address to the First Asian Women's Network Forum Seoul, South Korea, 27 September 2011.

It is my great pleasure to address the First Asian Women's Network Forum and I very much appreciate your theme of Women in Asian Cities: Crisis, Agency and Change. I am delighted by the great interest among leaders and activists like you who are developing women-friendly initiatives to make cities safer and more livable for all.

I want to thank the Seoul Metropolitan Government for hosting this important forum. And I want to congratulate the Mayor and the Seoul Metropolitan Government for your Women Friendly City Project, which won the 2010 Metropolis Public Service Award.

From the certification of women-friendly workplaces to creating jobs for mothers returning to work, from customized childcare centers to the safety audit for women-friendly restrooms, parking lots, streets and parks, this effort highlights innovative practices that can be shared.

Making cities safer for women is a priority for UN Women as we work to advance women's empowerment and gender equality here in Asia and around the world.

The UN Women commitment to making cities safer for women and girls is very close to my heart. One of the highlights of my term as President of Chile was an urban renewal programme - Quiero Mi Barrio - I Love My Neighborhood - which was offered to 200 neighborhoods all over the country. The programme developed urban works and plans, and fostered the recovery of urban neighborhoods through the participation of its residents in defining needs and priorities. Recognized internationally as a highly replicable success, Quiero Mi Barrio integrated gender equality and the prevention of violence against women as a central feature since 2007.

In all countries, women and girls experience various forms of gender-based violence, not only in the private sphere, but also in public life. Whether on city streets, public transport or in their own neighborhoods, they are subject to abuse ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault and rape. This daily reality limits their freedom to enjoy their neighborhoods and cities, and to exercise their rights to education, work, recreation, and full participation in political and economic life.

It is in this framework that UN Women embarked on a number of initiatives with partners to promote safer cities for women and girls. We are joined by UN-HABITAT, UNICEF, UNDP, Women in Cities International, the Women and Habitat Network, Huairou Commission, Jagori and many others.

One of these initiatives is the global Safe Cities Free of Violence Against Women and Girls programme which is being implemented in five pilot cities - in Cairo, New Delhi, Kigali, Port Moresby and Quito. What distinguishes the cities participating in safe cities initiatives — including Port Moresby and New Delhi—is that they combine a number of elements we consider necessary for success. They all have high-level support from their governments and they are building multiple level partnerships—with city authorities, urban planners, civil society groups, especially grassroots women, as well as experts in combating sexual violence in public spaces. I am very pleased to know that some of the key partners in our work on safe cities are present at this conference and I am sending them my special greetings.

In helping to ensure women's safety in cities, efforts like these and those that you will discuss at this First Asian Women's Network Forum will contribute to the growing momentum to end violence against women worldwide and advance women's empowerment, gender equality and democracy.

I thank you and wish you a very successful meeting.