Partnership with the City of Cape Town to improve safety for women and girls in public places

Date: Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cape Town — UN Women, in partnership with the City of Cape Town in South Africa, has launched a programme on 22 August 2014, to increase the safety of women and girls in public places, especially when accessing public transport.

“Violence against women in the private domain is widely recognized as a human rights violation. However, sexual violence and harassment against women in public spaces remains largely unaddressed, with few laws or policies in place to address this vice,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the launch of the Cape Town Safe City Programme. She welcomed the initiative of the Government of South Africa and the City of Cape Town for adapting tools and approaches in the UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative.

“No city can be considered safe, smart or sustainable unless half of its population – women and girls—can enjoy public spaces without the fear of violence. It is, therefore, important that curbing violence against women in public places is made a priority,” she added.

As part of UN Women Safe Cities Global Initiative, the City of Cape Town has committed to conducting a pilot study in Atlantis, a town in the City, to improve safety at MyCiti bus stations and on buses, as a first step for effective evidence-based Safe City initiative.

“Women and girls should walk to bus stations without the fear of being sexually assaulted, robbed or killed. Through the scoping study we will examine ways of making it safe for women to access public transport as well as check if there is enough lighting and that the paths are easy to walk on,” said Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille.

“This study is not a once-off stand-alone project. It is a pilot whose results will be used to make other MyCiti stations more secure and might include social interventions, such as mobilizing communities into neighbourhood watches or implementing youth programmes,” said the Mayor.

Through the Safe Cities Global Initiative, UN Women is documenting cases of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls in public spaces, highlighting the impact of this problem on women’s and girls’ lives and generating a number of innovative results through partnerships with mayors’ offices, national governments, women’s groups and other community partners. The municipality of Quito, for example, has amended a local ordinance to strengthen action against sexual harassment in public spaces and Egypt’s Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development has adopted women’s safety audits to guide urban planning. Port Moresby’s National Capital District has taken steps to improve women’s safety in local markets.

The Executive Director said UN Women is pleased that the City of Cape Town is joining the Safe Cities’ family, adding that the initiative by the Government of South Africa and the City of Cape Town will set an example for other countries in the region in developing similar programmes.