GBV, SHE-covery, and empowering women

Talking with Katherine O’Neill from YWCA Edmonton and Jan Reimer of Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS)

L I V E talking about GBV, SHE-covery, and empowering women out of this crisis!

Talking with Katherine O'Neill from YWCA Edmonton and Jan Reimer of Alberta Council of Women's Shelters (ACWS)

Posted by Bev Esslinger on Thursday, June 25, 2020

Edmonton Transit Announces A Gender-Based Approach

On March 12 at Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage, Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) announced their unique gender-based approach to further enhance transit safety and security, with a focus on women and girls.

ETS will be one of the first transit agencies in North America to use gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to enhance safety and security for riders. This tool looks at how different genders and diverse people experience policies, programs and initiatives. ETS will also be connecting directly with community groups and agencies, like the Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton (WAVE) and the ETS Advisory Board, to better understand root causes of safety concerns, particularly for women and girls.

ETS will continue to implement safety and security-related changes to further improve safety for customers, employees, and communities in Edmonton. Taking a holistic approach to safety, ETS will incorporate GBA+ processes, customer journey mapping, and community stakeholder engagement into further planning.

As part of the City’s participation in the United Nations Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative, we will focus on including diverse perspectives using a GBA+ lens in the work focusing specifically on women and girls. By improving safety for women and girls, we will further enhance safety for everyone.

In consultation with WAVE and the ETS Advisory Board, ETS heard feedback that a text alert feature, to discreetly report safety and security concerns, would help further enhance transit safety. As a result of this feedback, as well as findings from the 2018 UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders’ Forum, ETS is working through a full analysis to introduce a text alert feature this summer. Text alerts would go directly to the ETS Control Centre.

Safety and security is always the City’s top priority. ETS provided an update in October 2019 that included sharing the positive results that have been achieved over the last year since an investment in physical and workforce security features such as Operator shields, security guards and upgrades to LRT Stations and Transit Centres. Positive results include a 52% reduction in mischief/vandalism at transit centres and LRT stations, a 25% reduction in crime on transit property, increased perception of safety since last fall, improved surveillance and reporting, and additional support for employees.

Safety on Public Transit, taxis and ride sharing

Since I have been elected to Council one of my main areas of focus has been safety for everyone including the vulnerable, children and women. As part of the UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls we completed a scoping study that identified public transportation as an area that women felt the most vulnerable. Public transit, taxis and ride-sharing services are a site for risk of sexual violence.

Over the past few years we have been working on increasing security at public transit by utilizing good urban design principles, and earlier this year we began 24/7 security at many transit stations. I am happy with some of the progress we have made with public transit but will continue to push for even more safety.

I heard from women during the Uber debate that safety is one of the concerns they had. They felt it was important that Criminal record checks were in place before someone could be licensed and the same standard applies to all drivers including taxi cabs.

Currently the bylaws in place keep new applicants with convictions from getting their vehicle for hire license. However, already licensed individuals (with convictions that have occurred since they were first granted their licence) are successfully appealing their licence rejection because of the lack of clarity in the bylaw. As an unintended consequence this action has eroded public trust and safety. The idea that anyone that has been convicted of crime is allowed to drive the public concerns me, and as a City we have a responsibility to only license those who we feel confident will keep our citizens safe.

On March 6th this item is coming to Community and Public Services Committee for debate. My priority is public safety and will work to have clarity of rules and expectations. Let me know your thoughts or come and speak to this issue at Committee. You can register to speak at committee or public hearing here.

UN Safe Cities

Last week I attended UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders Forum which included much discussion on reducing sexual harassment and assault in public places in cities. The City of Edmonton is a wonderful City made up of many caring individuals, however, we still face a growing concern with violence and sexual assault. The majority of gender based violence is committed against women and girls, which points to roots of the violence about gender equality.  It’s an important issue for everyone to be a part of as violence against women and girls has economic, social, emotional, and physical impacts that limit their ability to fully participate in civic and political life. This could limit their potential as an individual, and their potential within the greater community. Men and boys play a large part in reducing this problem by being strong allies and advocates against violence and sexual assault .

As a City we saw the need to step in to help with this issue. In April 2015 the City of Edmonton’s initiative on gender-based violence and sexual assault prevention was initiated by Council, its aim is to end gender-based and sexual violence in Edmonton. If we want to achieve gender equity and empowerment, it is critical our public spaces are safe for everyone. A city free of sexual violence in public spaces is a city that is safe for all.

Edmonton is increasing crime prevention through environmental design audits of green spaces, transit terminals or other public spaces, with the intention of making spaces safer and more inclusive for everyone. The aim is to help people better anticipate their surroundings, feel welcome and know that services are easily available.

In 2016, Edmonton became the second ‘safe’ city in Canada to join the United Nations Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative to make urban public spaces safe and empowering for women and girls.

As we have been working on this initiative we have learned that we need to clarify what gender based violence is – that it’s not just physical acts – but includes actions such as verbal and emotional harm. Understanding this helped us come up with and launch the “Its Time Yeg” campaign and itstimeyeg.ca to help people understand the effects of their actions. We know that working together is the only way we’ll end gender based violence.

There is a shared civic responsibility for stewarding these kinds of changes, and they must be done together. It’s important to acknowledge we all have a role to play in creating safe, inclusive spaces. Would you partner with me in standing against gender based violence?