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The European Charter for Women in the City
Belgium

Keywords: Women & Gender equality
Social Exclusion/Integration

Background

The Charter is a research/action realised by a European team and subsidised by the Commission of the European Union Unit (Equal Opportunities Unit). It contents an evaluation of the current situation of women in cities regarding decision making, a 12-point declaration, an analysis of five priority topics (urban planning and sustainable development, safety, mobility, habitat and local facilities, strategies), a computerised database of resource persons and bibliographical references and a catalogue of 66 "best practices" (new cases are currently added). Purpose of the charter: to set up an International Network able to highlight the aspect of gender in these issues.


Narrative

A useful common platform for discussion for all actors, because
parity in democracy will improve living conditions for all.

The Charter is viewed as a lasting and open analytical process containing a series of concrete proposals which might be put into practice in order to take into account and to promote increasingly active citizenship by women in town planning as a whole.

One of the presuppositions is that a woman's self-interest does not exist as such, but that women may act as catalysts in the process of change and of improvements of living conditions generally.
 

    PURPOSES OF THE CHARTER

The proposal for a "Charter for Women in the City" aims at conceiving a new philosophy in town planning, likely to make a constructive contribution to a true democratic debate which will take accounts of the needs and the various expectations of citizens, women and men alike. Efforts for revitalising cities must merge with other, newer, political and economic priorities aiming at increased social harmonisation. The issue at stake is to recreate spaces and close social ties with increased equal opportunities for women and men in urban and rural life.

The Charter mainly aims at promoting an emancipated society, free from constructive stereotypes hindering all women-oriented development in town planning and services, housing, safety and mobility.

Cities must therefore be rethought and remodeled through a woman's perception, which will be instrumental in giving them a new equilibrium and another dimension.
 

    THE QUEST FOR A NEW CITY PHILOSOPHY
    Changing outlooks and procedures

Change will be achieved by :

  • removing obstacles to a woman's "Right to the City"; highlighting the issue to all involved, operating and deciding in matters related to town planning, housing and living conditions;
  • promoting new democratic decision-making procedures in town planning and developing improved living conditions through the introduction of, and the contributions by, women at all levels of consultation and decision-making;
  • raising renewed social awareness through "active citizenship" thereby bringing decision-makers closer to citizens' daily concerns;
  • promoting a different philosophy in town planning, specifically focused on human values;
  • giving impetus to change in a society, which on the whole, has become increasingly diverse.

  •  

    GENDER IN A PLURAL SOCIETY

Taking into account social, cultural and historical relationships between women and men is essential for initiating any change and will eventually require :

  • establishment of parity in decision making for ensuring equal opportunities for women and men;
  • development of a new culture commonly shared by men and women, in which gender-related studies and concerns will be part and parcel of intellectual renewal;
  • a balancing of the male vision with a women's vision and perception as innovative elements in regenerating urban dynamics.

  •  

    THE MOTIVATION

"The City is an organized Memory"
"Women are the forgotten ones in History"
(quote from the philosopher Hannah Arendt)

whereas women are absent from, or particularly unobtrusive in, all decision making levels related to cities, housing and town planning. Whereas they are as yet very little involved in the major political, economic and social issues at stake. Whereas their particular needs are hardly taken into account in planning, as they are usually overridden by the decision makers' interests;

whereas living conditions in the city - viz. the neighbourhood and housing - influence and mark to a great extent the daily lives of its inhabitants; women in particular are affected as they in addition often carry out a double day's work and therefore have to rely to great extent on quality city services and transport and environmental policies.

whereas women are doubly excluded as city users and as town and housing planners;

whereas a "born-citizen" must have a home somewhere and that this home is, by its very nature and quality, closely linked to citizenship. Whereas today, and indeed historically, the rules of the game and priorities, political and budgetary decisions are defined mainly by men, who are convinced to be acting in the interest of all;

whereas women are discriminated against when it comes to employment, that they are the poorer section of the population and that they are more affected by bad functioning of cities in area as such as housing, lack of mobility, and violence in particular. For all these reasons, women have a direct interest in improving urban development and rural planning;

whereas town planning considers only nuclear families in which a woman's lot is largely reduced to housework and a man's job is usually away from home. This model, which has fixed social stereotypes, has been less typical for several decades now and no longer represents but a minority, is gradually being replaced by new types of families which town planning has neither foreseen nor taken into account, thereby creating renewed dysfunction and social tension.

whereas many European and cities world-wide are going through a crisis and jeopardising social balances and peace. This state of affairs is due to problems which must be solved as a whole. Obsolete urban theories and methods curb any development or innovation, and generate and perpetuate cities in crisis. The Charter of Athens of Le Corbusier, architect in France, which divided cities into single-function districts introduced distortions and has led, in time, to serious disturbances. Tangible results are troubled city districts, social outcasts, as well as the social and economic costs arising from commuting between the home and the work place. Pollution and heavy traffic in cities are also due to urban policies. Quality in city life is seriously jeopardised and if cities are to have any future at all, this handicap has to be tackle.

whereas cities are faced with major and unprecedented challenges for achieving the following objectives : environmental preservation and sustainable development, improved quality of life for all, including increased equality, solutions to urban malfunctions and the fight against exclusion, active and balanced democracy for a plural society, in which women are actively involved.
 

    THE DECLARATION IN 12 POINTS
    (Short presentation)

    WOMEN IN THE CITY and ...

1. Active Citizenship
Active citizenship must be approached on the one hand through careful consideration of the influence of dwelling place and on the other, of how representative authorities and economic and political mechanisms in the city work.

2. Decision Making and Parity in Democracy
Women at all times must actively participate at all levels of the decision-making process in town planning, urban space, housing, transportation and environmental quality.

3. Equal Opportunities
Equal opportunities must be promote in education and research, in the work places and in all professions related to town and country planning, urban space, housing, mobility and safety in cities.

4. Participation
Egalitarian participatory processes must be set up for women which will favour renewed ties of solidarity.

5. Daily Life
Daily life as seen through a woman's eyes must become a political issue.

6. Sustainable Development
Women must be fully involved in policies for maintaining the ecological equilibrium on our planet.

7. Social Safety and Mobility
Every woman, and particularly underprivileged or isolated women, must have easy access to public transport in order to circulate freely and to fully enjoy economic, social and cultural life in the city. Women too have a right to the city.

8. The Right to Housing and Habitat
Women are entitled to adequate housing and habitat.

9. Gender Issues
Gender issues in the city must be acknowledged as the source for a newly shared culture and should influence a new town and country planning philosophy.

10. Education and Local Experimentation
Gender issues in cities must be taught in schools, institutes for architecture and town planning, and in universities. Experimentation in cities is urgently needed if any changes are to occur.

11. The Role of the Media and Transmitting Experience
The media must set out to spread messages which will counteract stereotypes and show women in roles reflecting their development and emancipation.

12. Networks
Exchanging information through an International Network will promote the Charter and implement action of its 12 points.
 

    THE 5 PRIORITY THEMES
    (Basic criteria, Research, Action, Reference to other declarations)

Which are the crucial elements and factors in a town
that affect particularly women's everyday lives ?
By what means can women's interests be expressed ?

A. Town planning and environment
To meet the challenges of the 21st century , a new planning philosophy has to be found, in which democracy as well as quality should be more present. Women form the best potential to revitalise cities because they are experts on everyday life. Up to now, they have remained "invisible" and have been kept away from the field of decisions. Starting from concrete actions which meet the real needs of everyday life, they are going to enable us to revitalise the city dynamics as well as renew the expert know-how regarding town-planning.

B. Mobility
For women, the choices which will enable them to gain more easily -as well as in a more equal way- access to the range of possibilities offered by cities are burning issues. Being able to get away from being cooped up and/or isolation is a major asset to women's personal development.

C. Urban Safety
The architecture and the organisation of a city are directly connected with the violence which is to be noticed in the streets. Women should no longer have to be considered as the only people in charge of their personal safety. In order to achieve this goal, it is most essential that safety in the city ought to become the expression of a self-respecting society.

D. Housing
As far as housing and fittings as well as other nearby facilities are concerned, women are to be considered as experts on the future development of life spaces. Whereas notions such as the appropriation of shared life spaces and identification are in the heart of present-day concerns, women who do not "have a room of their own" as Virginia Woolf would say, can detect what is lacking in the building of another form of urban and social dimensions. And such dimensions are essential to improve the condition of cities.

E. Strategies
The idea is to establish a package of political measures as well as forms of practice which will ensure durability and make significant democratic progress irreversible.
Deconstruction the former processes, designing new kinds of knowledge and of know-how, and their quick transmission form the key strategy for achieving this.
 
- Higher education and research
Because education is a driving force and a vector of social change.

- All forms of communication whose priority targets are both the political and the professional decision-makers in the fields in question. Universities, schools and research structures are concerned as well by the flows of communication which should be developed in order to change in a durable way people's attitudes to town and country planning.

- Determining concrete achievements at local level -experiments fields on a real scale - is essential. They should promote support for urban and social change.

The quality of homes and living spaces is as beneficial to men as to women, which doubly validates the procedure; it gives women the opportunity to make emerge a whole range of general problems as regarding planning which even now is the tip of the iceberg of problems which have to be solved in order to improve, bearing in mind a sustainable development perspective, everyone's -men and women's- environment for living.

Working group:
BELGIQUE: City & Shelter/Eurocultures
FRANCE: GROUPE CADRE DE VIE
GERMANY: FOPA -Dortmund Ursula Heiler
Adlerstrasse 81 D-4600 Dortmund Tel: (49-231) 143329 Fax: (49-231) 162174
GREECE: PRAXIS Annie Vrychea
Gioni 8, GR-Athens 117 42 Tel: (30-1) 928222 Fax: (30-1) 9228234
THE NETHERLANDS: SEIROV/NIROV Liesbeth Ottes
postbus 30833 NL-2500 gv den Haag Tel: (31-70) 3469652 Fax: (31-70) 703617422

Scientific committee:
BELGIUM: Eliane Gubin
CANADA/QUEBEC: Odette Isabel
FRANCE: Jacqueline Coutras
GREECE: Dina Vaiou
ITALY: Bianca Beccali
NORWAY: Alice Reite
THE NETHERLANDS: Marijke van Schendelen

Contact for International Relation:
European Women's Lobby, City & Shelter and Groupe Cadre de Vie


Impact

Gender issues and decision making in planning, housing, mobility, social safety.


Sustainability

    Moving towards a Gender-Conscious City
    Actors, actions

This Charter - a research/action subsidised in 1994 an 1995 by the Commission of the European Union (Equal Opportunities Unit) - is disseminated in Europe and to international bodies by several European associations. One of the main goal is to set up an International Network of Actions and of Experts on Gender & Human Settlements whose mission is to highlight the aspect of gender as an area of expertise when approaching the subject of town planning, mobility, social safety, housing. The question is to change mentalities and promote the application of the proposed process in all town and country planning and in organising rural communities.
This Network is working closely with EuroFEM (Nordic Countries projects Network) and has as a link with networks and NGOs on other continents having a similar philosophy. The authors of the Charter expect reaction and are looking on partnership for new projects in this field in Europe and abroad.
 

    Some short explanation about the Charter and the concept of "Cities, Citizenship and Gender":

Although women account for more than 50% of the population, they are conspicuously absent in the public debate on the development and planning of cities. In order to increase the chances that in depth change will be successful, a different way of approaching the complex problems of our urban and rural communities would involve taking gender-based socio-cultural relationships into account with a goal of equality between women and men. In fact, applying the dimension of gender to cities gives rise to a new debate, which not only "upsets the apple cart" but shows that there are other ways of planning and managing cities or any residential area. Moreover, analysing the framework of daily life through feminine expertise has the advantage of a qualitative approach to the main concerns of all citizens, such as safety, mobility and habitat.

The Charter must be envisaged as a tool of choice for lending new dynamism to the usual working methods, an ongoing and open process which makes concrete proposals for action that can be implemented in order to promote more active civic involvement - for women, in particular, but men as well - in the areas of town and country planning. The idea is to tap knowledge, identify and eliminate the stereotypes which still hinder the evolution and emancipation of our societies. Nothing will be solved without women's contribution, democratically legitimate and as an essential source for renewal in urban dynamics.

To get the Charter in English or in French (270 pages) contact : The European Commission - Equal Opportunities Units Brussels Belgium Fax: (32-2) 2963562
To get the Charter in short presentation in Spanish, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabic, Finnish , Russian, Turkish or Chinese, as well as the database and the catalogue of best practices or for more details and new projects (as realise CD-Rom and develop Micro-Developing- Unit) contact City & Shelter.

Contact also the Authors:
BELGIUM: City & Shelter / Eurocultures - Roland Mayerl
FRANCE: Groupe Cadre de Vie - Monique Minaca
GERMANY: Fopa /Dortmund - Ursula Heiler
GREECE: Praxis - Annie Vrychea
THE NETHERLANDS: Seirov/Nirov - Liesbeth Ottes


Contact

    Belgium

Sponsor

    European Union Commission GDV Social Affairs Equal Opportunities Unit
    European Women's Lobby
    26 rue du Meridien
    Brussels
    Belgium
    B-1030
    32-2 217 90 20 Fax:32-2 219 84 51
    EUROWOMEN-LOBBY@ MCR1 GEONET.DE

Partners

    City & Shelter R.Mayerl Brussels E.Mail: 100533,2426@Compuserve.Com
    Roland Mayerl CITY & SHELTER
    92 rue d'Espagne
    Brussels
    Belgium
    B-1060
    32-2 534 77 35
    100533,2426@COMPUSERVE.Com

    Groupe Cadre de Vie - Monique Minaca Meudon France Fax:33-146231868
    Monique Minaca GROUPE CADRE DE VIE
    60 AV. Jean Jaur s
    Meudon
    France
    F-92190
    33-1 45 34 27 17

    Fopa Dortmund - Seirov/Nirov Den Haag - Praxis Athens
    Annie Vrychea PRAXIS
    Gioni 8
    Athens
    Greece
    GR-11742
    30-1 92 28 222


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