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Programming should work to actively include women and girl in every step of the process and should make connections with women's organizations

Women and girls are experts on their own experiences and on how they feel. Women and girls know when and why they don’t feel safe and why they don’t feel safe. Safe cities for women programming should use the knowledge and feelings that women and girls already possess as a starting point for making cities and communities more secure. In order to do this, safe cities for women partners should value women’s knowledge, and treat women and girls as key sources of information/ informants by encouraging them to express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.  Moreover, programme partners should remember that not all women and girls have the same needs and experiences - these things are affected by culture, age, ethnic background, sexual orientation, ability, etc.  Therefore, before implementing an action to guarantee women's safety, the knowledge and experiences of the specific groups of women and girls affected is required.

 

Safe cities for women programming requires that women and girls play a central role in decision-making and policy implementation. The participation of women and girls (especially those who have experienced violence in their city or community) is important because it:

  • provides useful input on what will and will not work for women and girls; 
  • provides useful input on how decisions, programs, and policies might benefit or harm women and girls;
  • provides policy-makers and decision-makers with alternative ideas;
  • gives women and girls a sense of ownership over decisions that affect their lives;
  • develops women’s and girls’ capacity in  communication and leadership; and
  • empowers women and girls to take control over their own security, rather than relying on male decision-makers or professionals (Michaud, 2003).

 

This means that decisions and policies must include and be accessible to women and girls. It is not enough that women and girls are simply present when decisions and policies are made – women and girls should be part of the process and their opinions should be taken into account. In order for this to happen, there must be mechanisms and procedures in place to ensure that women and girls actively participate in community decisions that affect their security (Booth, 1996; Whitzman C., 2007). To empower women, girls and their communities to make public space safer, it is important to work with already-existing women’s, youth and community organizations. These organizations can connect safe cities for women programmes with actual women in the community. This kind of relationship helps safe cities for women programme partners because it gives them access to the important contacts and resources that women’s and other organizations possess. At the same time, women’s organizations can gain capacity and knowledge by working on safe cities for women programming (POWER Camp National, 2006; Women in Cities International [WICI], 2006; Mayor of Bogotá, 2007).