Habitat Thematic Committee
Gender Mainstreaming Report Card

Is it Rhetoric or Reality?

As a part of the Istanbul+5 special session the UNCHS received 68 proposals for "best practices, enabling policies, legislation, simplified procedures and proven action plans" to be highlighted during the Thematic Committee. The Secretariat together with the Committee of Permanent Representatives to UNCHS selected 16 proposals : 4 from ECE, and 12 from developing countries (4 from Africa, 3 from Asia and the Pacific, 3 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 2 from Arab States). The two proposals submitted by the Huairou Commission were rejected. The Huairou Commission was assured that although their projects were rejected, the 16 carefully selected best practices demonstrated gender-mainstreamed approaches.

The six priorities set out by the UNCHS for impact of these presentations were: participation and partnership, reduction of poverty, gender equality, social inclusion, upgrading local practices, and exchange of knowledge.

The purpose of this report card is to grade these presentations and their level of gender mainstreaming of these practices. The below summaries are a combination of the presentations made to the Thematic Committee and a review of the formal proposals provided on the Istanbul+5 Thematic Committee website. Areas that mention the role of women are bolded.



The South African Housing Policy: operationalizing the right to adequate housing

This project is a model best practice that genuinely included gender-mainstreaming strategies.

Presenter(s): Minister for Human Settlements (female) in addition to Minister of Trade and Finance (female) and two grassroots women

The Project: The People’s Housing Process (PHP) is a policy and program that encourages and supports individuals and communities in their efforts to fulfill their own housing needs and who wish to enhance the subsidies they receive from government by assisting them in accessing land, services and technical assistance in a way that leads to the empowerment of communities and the transfer of skills. The message from the PHP projects is that many of those facing the greatest hardship are also the most resourceful. Furthermore, that projects such as those supported by the South African government can work to unleash that resourcefulness for lasting change. The South African government affirms the value of the wisdom of ordinary people to take control of their own lives.

In SA, like all over the world, women continue to contribute, without acknowledgement or recognition. The government is aware that many households (particularly poor households) are headed by women and that policies must ensure that women play a major role and have equal access to resources. Through the PHP process, the role that women play in decision-making processes around housing delivery is highlighted, with the majority of the community housing institutions made up of women. These women are actively involved in the planning, financial arrangements and construction of their houses. In addition, they have broken stereotypes, which categorized them in a manner that excluded them from certain roles (e.g. as bricklayers, normally seen as roles for men). The Minister highlighted that enterprising groups of women are at the forefront of building houses instead of waiting for government handouts. She also highlighted that women’s groups have come together and organized themselves around savings schemes to supplement government grants for housing.

The grassroots women who presented thanked the South African government for fulfilling their promise in Istanbul to include poor women on their future delegations.


Shelter programs and City Development Strategies in Egypt

Overall, the inclusion of gender issues was weaker in the presentation than the actual project summary on the web. Although women were mentioned periodically, they did not play a central role in the projects. In addition, the projects focused on top-down strategies with a weak emphasis on community involvement or community solutions.

Presenter(s): Minister Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities (male)

The Project: Egypt highlighted two pojects, the "Mubarak Youth Housing Project" (designed by architects in a national competition) and "The Future Housing Project" (implimented by new NGO Society for the Future to build social solidarity and partnership between the capable/wealthy and disadvantaged/poor groups), each of which is aiming at constructing 70,000 dwelling units. Both offer soft loans with 40 year payback at 5% interest. Egypt claims their efforts are not limited to secure houses for disadvantaged households but extended the task to improve their living environment/services/standards to be healthy and productive. In addition they presented three urban development projects.

The Manshiet Nasser Upgrading Project is another pilot for applying the rehabilitation and replacement strategy in informal settlements, putting into practice the concept of "renewal and replacement". The project aims at stimulating the contribution and activating the participation of all interested parties (especially the 25 NGOs existing in the area) as a tool to achieve sustainable urban development. They have been oriented to include other interests in their agenda, e.g. women activities, youth productivity, and environmental awareness.

The Comprehensive Development for the City of Luxor project is focused on development and investment to deal with the deterioration of the monuments and improve the local economy, in addition to facilitating future developments of tourism. They also fucused on involving the local community in the development and improving the standard of living especially the disadvantaged groups through the implementation of Sustainable Livelihood Approach (SLA). SLA in Luxor entails activities directed to link macro with micro levels of both investment and administration in order to enhance governance and stimulate economic development. It is intended to benefit youth/women/disadvantaged groups in specific issues of job creation and poverty eradication. In order to achieve its intentions, SLA program came out with five projects, namely: 1) incubation center for small industries in Luxor; 2) Technical Access Community Center (TACC); 3) the implementation of five community action plans through NGOs; 4) initiating a Micro Start Credit Program (MSCP); and 5) start up skills building programs for disadvantaged groups.

Sustainable Ismailia Governorate includes training centers, managed by an NGO, to implement various sustainable development-trainings. The Governorate has commenced work on activities of Cities-Alliance-Funded project aiming at producing feasibility studies for slum upgrading, and is focused on wealthy giving to provide appropriate shelter and affordable housing for poor people. They mentioned capacity building for different sectors of the society, including leaders, members of NGOs and CBOs, women and youth has been given special attention.

The last statement on the web reads: "It is worthy to indicate that three active, inspired, and highly qualified women direct the three city development projects presented above. It is evidence that Egypt is fully aware of and genuinely practicing gender equity."


Holistic Upgrading Program in Medellin, Columbia

There was no mention of women. Gender mainstreaming = gender oblivion.

Presenter(s): Minister? (male)

The Project: To contribute to the unification of the city through the integration of its subnormal neighborhoods and achieve peaceful coexistence in Medellin is the objective of the Program. Over 140 thousand inhabitants in 30 settlements of "incomplete development". Slums house 18% of population in peripheral areas largely populated by people displaced by violence. Inequity, weak community organization, high intra-family violence, and drug addiction are present problems. The Mayor of Medellin, UNDP, and the national government tried to deal with these incomplete settlements by investment in physical infrastructure. They tried to encourage land tenure, ownership, and belonging so residents can feel a participant in the process of development. The program focuses on high-risk young people, creating spaces for them and encouraging non-aggression pacts.


Improvement and Restructuring of Spontaneous Settlements in Dakar, Senegal

The role of women was central to this excellent best practice that included concrete examples of how to improve spontaneous settlements.

Presenter(s): Minster for Country Planning (male)

The Project: The project is aimed at maintaining the populations that are living in informal neighbourhoods -- 30% of the urban areas of Senegal -- on the site occupied by them and at facilitating their access to land ownership and basic infrastructure, as well as social cohesion, as suggested by the Habitat Program. The ultimate objective is the improvement of their living environment. They use partnerships between local communities, local government, national government, NGO’s and international cooperation. The project ensured the participation women via activities that create revenue. The results were organization, physical restructuring, development settlement, land ownership, participation of women, and social development. These ideas are sustained and replicable through financial instruments and institutional mechanisms.


Community-Driven Provision of Universal Sanitation in Indian Cities

This project and presentation is a model for sharing a best practice and incorporating gender mainstreaming as a central objective of the project. It was also an excellent example of a specific best practice that could be easily replicated.

Presenter(s): Sheela Patel of SPARC (female NGO representative)

The Project: The presenters of this best practice were major participants in the Grassroots Women’s International Academy. Their central focus is on community lead solutions that include women. The partnerships are primarily between the alliance of Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centers Mahila Milan (Women’s Federation) and National Slum Dwellers Federation with three Municipal Corporations and communities. The main objective of the partnership is the provision of minimum sanitation to the informal settlement dwellers. The provision of universal sanitation can be viewed as a starting point for the exploration of many other issues in which the Municipal Corporation and the communities can explore joint ventures. Between 1984 and 1996, SPARC Mahila Milan and NSDF have worked in 32 cities with communities of the poor living in informal settlements. The issue of security for their homes and basic amenities was their priority agenda. Yet as they began to examine how they imagined the delivery of these vital resources, they saw that they expected the city government and the state to "deliver" it to them. Yet the evidence was that this was not happening, and they were determined to play a more active role in this change.

They began by seeking to encourage communities to construct, design and manage their sanitation and take on pilot projects to demonstrate to the government and to Municipal Corporation that universal sanitation is critical for both issues of equity health and management of cities. They also emphasized that such a process of creating sanitation strategy without involving communities of the poor was a waste of money, and that poor people have solutions which the state has not even thought about.

By creating a positive environment for the delivery of sanitation and services through Municipal Corporations there are local and international signals that acknowledge that make their cities the engines of economic growth, and encourage trade and global markets to inhabit that space. They need to accept very early on that inclusion into cities of all people who live in cities is vital for the peace and collaborative existence needed for this economic growth and financial investment to come in. Women plaid a crucial role in designing, running and maintaining the toilets. They also designed the children’s toilets where they could see the children and allow them to go in together and included toys. Equity and inclusions of diversity in cities create peace without which no investment comes into cities. Making proactive choices to create this atmosphere in cities creates win win solutions that work for the city and for its poorer citizens.



Environmental Planning and Management in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania

Women played a central role in the planning of these projects and this group gave a concrete example of a best practice.

Presenter(s): (male)

The Project: A largely successful attempt at remediation of poor waste management conditions in the City of Dar Es Salaam has been the community of Hanna Nassif. Due to a collaborative established in 1996 between the Hanna Nassif community, of which women comprise 50 percent, the Dar Se Salaam City Council and external agencies such as the UNDP and the Ford Foundation, these conditions were addressed and successfully tackled through various programs. Increased access to health care heightened awareness for environmental hazards and resulted in the reduction of disease. Micro-credit programs were emphasized to increase employment and the generation of income. The community was directly employed to construct various waste management mechanisms.

Such a direct community involvement in waste management systems has now been employed by the City as a whole, again due to a collaborative effort by four sectors, specifically, the popular sector, comprising of NGO’s, CBO's and citizens; the private sector, comprising of various businesses and banks; the public sector, municipal councils and governments; and external agencies, such the UNDP and ILO. The City was able to establish a waste management system, which simultaneously generated employment opportunities for the city and allowed for a healthier environment.

Women played an important role in both of these examples, comprising half of the community group members. Through participation in these community groups women were not only able to directly influence the solution of a major environmental issue, but also create employment opportunities for women in the waste management field.

The representative of Tanzania indicated that this collaborative structure at solving problems of environmental management is still in use today, with truly a bottom up framework.


Developing a sustainable compact city in Stockholm, Sweden.

This best practice made no mention of the role of women and used a very top-down strategy, in addition to being vague in its practice.

Presenter(s): (male)

The Project: Today the city is facing new challenges in creating a modern sustainable city for the next century making it obvious that the old strategies in many ways have become obsolete. Many of the quickly built large-scale suburban areas from the 60’s and 70’s had developed social and ethnical problems. There are today clear tendencies of an increasing social and ethnic segregation.

During the last decades the figures of housing construction have been on a low level, comparing with the figures from the 60’s and 70’s. As a result of this and of the tendencies towards smaller households the demand for new housing is increasing since the 90’s, as is the need for facilities for enterprises mainly in the quickly growing information technology and information businesses.

Today, for one reason or another, lots of land is not as well used as it should be regarding its attractive location close to the inner city or as it constitutes a node for local and regional communications. The aim of the City Plan 99 is to "build the city inwards". The new strategy is not to use virgin land for new development, but rather reuse already used land.


Comprehensive Urban Environmental Renovation --The Fu & Nan Rivers Project

Women’s role was not particularly emphasized, though, as stated, women’s special needs were "taken into account" and women were given participatory roles in the planning of resettlement neighborhoods.

Presenter(s): (male)

The Project: The city of Chengdu is surrounded by the Fu and Nan Rivers. Over 600,000 tons of wastewater was being pumped into the rivers daily. Slums had grown along their banks, giving "shelter" to over 30,000 families, or over 100,000 people. In 1985, the city employed engineers and experts to solve this problem of pollution and horrible living conditions for the community along the banks of the two rivers.

Initially, the project began with an emphasis of ridding the rivers of its pollution, but it became clearly apparent that more needed to be done. An effort to resettle the families began. The City, through financial incentives, persuaded private investor to invest in 24 housing units, within 10 km from the original dwellings, for the resettlement of the families. Each family was given, free of charge, a housing unit similar in size to their previous dwellings. Should the family desire more space, they were able to purchase the same, for a fee.

The government received input from the families as to preferences of neighbors and living arrangements, and attempted to accommodate all requests. Special accommodations were given to groups such as women and the elderly.

The Mayor of Cheng Du touted the fact that all 30,000 families had been resettled in 18 months without one case of litigation. The comprehensive plan of revitalization of the Fu and Nan Rivers included other aspects besides resettlement such as riverside improvements, the additional of parks and public spaces, pollution control and urban renovation.


Environmental Management and City Development Strategy for Katowice Agglomeration, Poland

The presenter though questioned directly about women’s participation, failed to fully address the same, and rather stated that women’s input was received and added to the project’s outcome.

Presenter(s): (1 male and 1 female)

The Project: The Katowice Agglomeration is a large region bound together by several facets of traditional heavy industry consisting of oil, coal and metallurgy, among others. Desperately in need of restructuring due to a depressed economy, rapid urbanization and a distressed environment, a collaborative between NGO’s individuals, various UN agencies and the governments of the 15 municipalities of the agglomeration began work on several projects to ameliorate the conditions. Working groups, representing a cross-sectoral representation, implemented the projects. Each thematic group consisted of members of both the private and public sector, representing professors, NGO’s, municipal enterprises and private businesses.

Priorities were set for the projects dealing with waste and sewage management, reclamation and reuse of post-industrialization areas, revitalization of the urban environment, and rehabilitation of contaminated areas. Based upon the precepts of the Habitat Agenda, the projects were formed to create a basis for present and future restructuring projects.

While the projects were not designed to solve the far-reaching problems of the region, several guiding documents were created as a result of the input of the various working groups, which were to serve as guidelines and tools for the restructuring of the area.

The project included a provision for the creation of new jobs targeted at women, in both the commerce ands services industry, to address higher unemployment rates than men.



Integrated program for social inclusion in Santo Andre, Brazil

Although this project made a special effort to mention the role of women, it was more peripheral than central. Although many women’s faces were in the videos, there was little mention of their leadership role.

Presenter(s): (Male) Minister? and the Governor of the federal district of Brazil

The Project: Integrated program aimed at social inclusion. Santo Andre is in the SE part of Brazil in state of Saul Paulo, facing intensive productive restructuring, causing high unemployment level, and deep social and economic inequalities (14% of Brazil’s population live in slums). The pilot project focused on four slums, intended to allow excluded people to feel like real citizens. Principles: the interaction and integration of municipal sectoral programs, several financial and technical partnerships, measurement of impact of program, intense community participation. Economic dimension complimented by minimum income program, vocation program, income generation (micro credit), basic urban services (utilities, roads, sanitation, community center), creating tenure, and self-help strategies (people build the houses themselves, become part of the formal city). Social dimensions included literacy, family health, social education, and incorporation of gender issues since we know social exclusion concentrated especially on women including the feminization of poverty. People solve own problems with own savings once given secure tenure. Financed by 50% local government, 17% national government, and the remaining from international sources (EC and UNCHS). 66% of families who participated in the minimum income program feel their life has improved and experienced participation through meetings on project development.

A further presentation was made on Brazilia. 1,000’s of low-income families migrated to Brazilia in the 80’s. By 1998 604,000 lived in slums with appalling conditions. Government launched settlement program in 1998, changed zoning to open new areas to secure tenure. The government worked to not separate existing new communities in its relocation efforts. Families were given a plot of land to build their new homes in new settlement. Government also provided trucks to move from slum, electricity, and sanitation. The tenants were responsible for building their own homes. Temporary housing first then replaced with permanent structures with designs supplied by government. 11 years later the town has developed with shops and small industries. Brazilia is now free of slums.

FRANCE: GRADE = N/A - this session was not observed

City Development Strategy in Response to Globalization in Lyon, France


Sustainable Urban Development and Good Urban Governance in Nigeria

Although these presentations were very inclusive of gender mainstreaming rhetoric, it was so general it was not a best practice at all. One left feeling they heard a commercial for Nigeria, but we cannot ignore the central focus of the role of women.

Presenter(s): Director of Housing (male) and Minister (male)

The Project: Nigeria has experienced progress on implimenting the Habitat agenda. The presentation covered the activities of the three tiers of Government, the private sector as well as non-governmental organizations, and civil groups. These include activities in Promoting Geographically Balanced Human Settlements Structures and Governance. They stressed that local governance is the key and that there has been progress in this area. Also encouraged political access on local level and social integration. A Infrustructure and Urban Development Bank was created to provide resources to local governance and to empower local women's groups. Women's groups came forward when trying to promote local governance, which gave them politicial access. In addition they stated that the target for strategies of poverty reduction was women.

Poverty reduction and urban development was targeted to reach out to women in particular and encouraged them to participate in economic empowerment.

They provided an example of local governance from a certain community. In this community the women's demands for urban services and reduction of poverty was very strong, and example of down up strategy. Again a result of new institutional local governance.


Sustainable Economic Transformation and Decentralization in Barcelona, Spain

No mention of gender at all or participation of the grassroots. It was also an entirely top-down strategy.

Presenter(s): Mayor of Barcelona (male)

The Project: Historic review of Barcelona and how in became successful. City began to mobilize after economic crisis in late '70's. This was a catalyst for decentralization, with an emphasis on listening to neighborhood people in the new municipalities. The Olympic games also created a catalyst for commonality. A big challenge was the recover of the historic center of the city. Presented a new project for extending the sea front, which is the slum in Barcelona. He claimed it was a radical project because they wanted to keep 90% of the people in this location without support from national government. This will be done through subsidizing new low-income houses.



Urban Community Development Fund, Thailand

Overall this project was an excellent demonstration of community involvement in urban development but did not specifically mention the role of women. However, it was strongly implied in the model.


The Project: The urban poor development fund is a government/NGO partnership. A powerful development mechanism that allows urban poor communities to organize themselves into saving groups and improve their financial and managerial capacity to manage the loans for community development activities for the members or for the community as a whole from the fund directly. They first have to pool their resources then they can apply for money from the revolving government fund. It is a collective process, small groups get together in a single community, network, and create a fund. It is a mechanism that enables urban poor organizations to tap development resources directly by building up their own capacities.

The results were an increase in community organization networks, increases in community assets and direct financial resources, increased community management and entrepreneur capacity, developing more diverse housing solutions from individual to city processes, large scale community welfare activities, and communities have a stronger status. Ultimately, reemphasized that if you work for the poor they have to be present, taking an active role.


Participatory planning and budgeting in Villa El Salvador, Peru

Although the presentation focused on the importance of community participation, there was little mention of the role of women. However, the role of women was more specifically laid out in their full proposal on the web.

Presenter(s): The Mayor of the municipality of Villa El Salvador (male)

The Project: Villa El Salvador’s development plan based in 1985 gave priority to the development of a new industrial park in order to host the micro-entrepreneur of the informal market. The Municipality faced a new challenge in the 1990’s: in order to elaborate the new plan for restructuring and development of the city, the entire population would have to participate, but the traditional means of participation - the neighborhood assemblies - were inadequate in including women, young people and the social heterogeneity of the city. The answer lay in the process of city consultation. Villa El Salvador’s 2018 Integral Development Plan was approved, implementing rather a two-way process whereby, once approved, the people involve themselves in the management of the plan. From the citizens’ perspective, the process has been positive providing a space for large and small organizations, such as youth and women’s organizations, to participate in the development of the integral plan and the city’s budgeting, therefore better representing the diversity of the city.


Reduction of Urban Poverty in Morocco

Overall this presentation was very general full of sweeping statements. Although the role of women was mentioned a number of times, there were few concrete examples. In general they kept discussing "the project" but never gave any specifics about the project. It left one with no sense of what the best practice was.

Presenter(s): National Coordinator of the Pilot Program (male)

The Project: Since 1996 Morocco has been trying to implement commitments of the Habitat agenda and has formed a partnership with the government, UNDP, and at the local level with the indigent population, now emphasizing social questions. The challenges for Morocco are the many impoverished informal habitats that are strongly connected with population growth in the cities. The project promotes areas for consultation around local level especially through local municipalities, improvement of living conditions of the poor, reinforcement of local capacity (especially training of local partners and associations), and ability to replicate good practices. The Mayor gave particular attention to women who are essentially head of households. Training and literacy is particularly important for women and focus on children and elderly. Increased revenues improved access to housing and savings, protection of vulnerable groups and promotion of social integration. In addition focus on capacity building and training of local officials in urban management, with focuses on civil society participation and mobilization of women and sustainable projects. Promotion of local democracy is where urban management takes place at the municipal level and the associations of people.

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