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The impact of urbanisation on women

Women all over the world might brag about the positive impact urbanisation has made – or continues to make – in their day-to-day lives, but the harsh reality is that urbanisation is also like a devil that gives fast and destroys slowly but surely. 

Women from Vietnam driving  motorcycles (Photo: UN-Habitat)
In short, urbanisation is a double-edged sword, so seems to say the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in its Environment and Urbanisation journal published this week.

“Urbanisation is among the defining features of current times, but it can mean very different things for men and women,” the journal’s guest editor Cecilia Tacoli, of IIED, said. “Unless policymakers, urban planners and development agencies understand these differences, urbanisation will fail to meet its potential to improve the lives of all urban citizens,“ Tacoli added. 

Many observers believe urbanisation has done more harm than good to women in Africa, a damage that they say has complicated the already difficult equation of women’s development and independence. With 3.3% urbanisation rate annually, Africa is thefastest urbanised continent in the world.

However, the IIED says while urbanisation is often associated with greater independence and opportunity for women, it however comes with high risks of violence and constraints on employment, mobility and leadership that reflect deep gender-based inequalities. These issues – along with climate change, waste, water and other topics – are explored in the April 2013 issue of the journal.

The journal’s editorial – available online here – highlights the key points from each paper. The IIED says these include papers on the following topics under this edition’s main theme of Gender and Urban Change:
  •  where and when urban women enjoy advantages over their rural counterparts, community savings schemes that build women’s leadership and support upgrading
  • how transport planning still fails to respond to women’s travel needs
  • how urban contexts can reduce gender based violence, although often they can increase it
  • how income and ideology influence women’s decision making in rural and urban areas in Nicaragua
  • the changes in women’s participation in labour markets in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and the tensions this can generate within households
  • what was learnt from a project working with girls and boys with disabilities in Mumbai, India, and 
  • the particular roles of women in seeking to get better services for their low-income/informal neighbourhoods in Bengalaru, India
This issue also has two papers on climate change: a detailed benefit-cost analysis applied to Durban, South Africa, and the different responses of low-income tenants and squatters to adaptation to climate change in Khulna, Bangladesh. The subjects of other papers include: ·

  •  the limitations in the Indian government’s Basic Services for the Urban Poor Programme · 
  •  the politics of non-payment for water in low-income communities in Manila, Philippines ·       
  • community-managed reconstruction in Old Fadama in Accra, Ghana, after a fire · developing a solid waste collection service in informal settlements in Managua, Nicaragua 
  •  how well-connected individuals control land allocations and water supply in an informal settlement in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and ·
  •  an assessment of provision for water, sanitation and waste collection in two informal settlements in Kumasi

This story was originally written by Issa Sikita da Silva 
Issa Sikiti da Silva is the editor and founder of Moon of the South and an award-winning African journalist. His work has been published in more than 40 media outlets based in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Europe and Qatar. He has travelled extensively across Africa, reporting on issues ranging from media freedom to travel and tourism, housing, education, marketing, advertising and branding, ICT, SMEs, sports, and many more. He won the 2010 SADC Media Awards in print category. Follow him on Twitter at @sikitimedia, email him at

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