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Designing Public Spaces that Cater to the Needs of Women

Either by design or accident, cities often contribute to and exacerbate gender disparities. The planning and design of many public spaces often compromise women’s safety, neglect their fundamental requirements, and limit their social and economic prospects. Consequently, billions of women are not supported by the urban settings in which they reside and work. To create urban environments that cater to the needs of women, gender-inclusive strategies can be applied to the urban design process. These spaces welcoming for women will enhance the overall safety, well-being, liveliness, and desirability of cities, benefiting the whole public (Acharya et al. 2022).

Table 1: Metrics for evaluating public spaces

According to the Handbook for Gender-Inclusive Urban Planning and Design, a range of metrics can be utilized to assess how gender-responsive public spaces are, including infrastructure and comfort, connectivity, public safety, occupancy levels, and lighting quality. To create or regenerate the public spaces, the design should aim to promote equity and coexistence for individuals of all genders, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, income levels, social classes, ethnicities, races and other marginalized groups by providing opportunities play, recreation, physical activity, social and cultural interaction, as well as civic engagement. There are several project guidelines in the handbook. Firstly, develop a network of public spaces that are within a 250-meter walking distance from residential areas, including communal, semi-public, and public open spaces. To ensure public safety, the public spaces should be embraced on three directions by streets or buildings with active frontages. Secondly, include a balanced mix of amenities that are responsive to community involvement and expressed requirements. These facilities should be attractive and cater to different user groups throughout the day, across seasons, while also providing shaded resting areas and weather-protected spaces. Finally, provide sufficient lightings and unobstructed sight lines within the site, avoiding any hindrance from trees. Ensure adequate lighting for primary and secondary pathways as well as open spaces, with easy access to exits. Include a minimum of two main sidewalks throughout the area, with lighting levels that allow for facial recognition from a distance of 10-15 meters (The World Bank 2020).

Figure 1´╝ÜGender-responsive project roadmap (Arup 2022)

Apart from the design and planning process, the integration of a gender-responsive perspective should be incorporated throughout all phases of built environment projects, including the development of new policies, strategies, and physical interventions that address both spatial and structural considerations. Arup (2022) established a project roadmap serving as a valuable tool for urban professionals, city authorities, developers, investors, and community groups seeking to incorporate gender-responsiveness into their work. In conclusion, we are currently at a crucial juncture in the development of our cities. By working together, we can eliminate outdated urban practices and instead focus on designing cities that cater to the needs of women and girls. It is imperative that we no longer overlook their requirements.


Achaya, A., Lal, A.C., Sapkota, B. and Paudel, G. 2022. Gender inclusiveness in the planning of urban spaces. In: Proceedings of 12th IOE Conference, October 2022. Available at: [Accessed: 30 March 2023].

Arup, 2022. Cities alive: designing cities that work for women. Available at: [Accessed: 30 March 2023].

The World Bank. 2020. Handbook for gender-inclusive urban planning design. Available at: [Accessed: 30 March 2023].


Arup, 2022, Gender-responsive project roadmap, accessed 01 April 2023, <>.


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