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?

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