New Urban Agenda, adopted at the UN-Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016, underlines the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls for readdressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed and managed. It stresses the need for gender-responsive urbanization through ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and in leadership at all levels of decision-making, decent work and equal pay for equal work and prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence against women and girls in private and public spaces through well-designed networks of safe, accessible, green and quality streets and other public spaces that are accessible to all and free from crime and violence.

 The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women and girls. According to the latest UN-Habitat World Cities Report 2022, 90 million women and girls were pushed into poverty in 2020, a figure that is expected to reach 105.3 million by 2030.The United Nations Human Rights Council and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) also emphasized the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on the human rights of women and girls, in particular those of color, with disabilities, living in conflicts and post conflicts situations, as well as women migrants, indigenous women and care taker women. The Council also underlined that COVID-19 has led to an increase in violence against women and girls, increased the percentage of women subject to hunger, homelessness and exacerbated challenges to access sexual and reproductive health-care services and more generally weakened the implementation of their rights, including the right to education. This scenario needs to be overturned. 

We need to push for sustainable, gender-responsive and equitable cities through brave commitments to tackle structural inequalities and create conditions that foster social, economic and spatial inclusion to ensure that no one is left behind and to strengthen measures for empowerment of women and girls. If appropriate measures are implemented, the response to the current urban crisis can lead to a collective reprioritization of cities across the world towards gender responsive measures to ensure shared prosperity, inclusion, productive employment, innovation, environmental sustainability, urban mobility and cohesive community building. iv The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a framework adopted by all United Nations Member States and is enshrined in human rights and empowerment of women. 

The Sustainable Development Goal 11 on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities together with the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality address all the above issues and together with other instruments such as CEDAW can advance a substantive understanding of gender equality that can serve as both a vision and an agenda for action. Substantive equality requires fundamental transformation of economic and social institutions, including the beliefs, norms and attitudes that shape them, at every level of society, from households to labor markets and from communities to local, national and global governance institutions. 

Cities as hubs where such actions can be implemented should be provided with capacities and resources to turn current crises into opportunities to create gender-responsive societies free of conflict, violence and want and provide safe space where no one is left behind. The Conference   on Women and Sustainable Urbanization organized by CSU and the Turkish Women’s League of America was held at the Turkish Center in partnership with UNHabitat on 5 October 2022 for the World Habitat Day, Urban October and Arch-October.

The Conference speakers were well known scholars on the subject from academia and the United Nations as well as practicing architects. The proceedings are published by the CSU Publications and are available on Amazon.

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