Safe Cities
General Guidance
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Compile and Collect Different Sources of Information

Last edited: October 30, 2010

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Collecting statistics on violence, crime rates, and health can help pinpoint what kinds of threats are plaguing what areas of the city or community (RTPI, 2002, 7). Sometimes, however, this data is not separated by sex or age. In these cases, it is impossible to tell what different kinds of safety issues men and women face, and of what age or other population sub-groups. Therefore, it is difficult to identify which factors cause people, and specifically women, to feel unsafe. Moreover, statistics do not account for everything and the numbers they represent can only highlight a problem, not explain why it is happening. Statistics cannot, for instance, measure women’s perceptions of insecurity or feelings of safety. In addition, women do not always report the incidences of violence and insecurity that they experience (including gender-specific forms of violence such as sexual harassment that they are often socialized to tolerate and accept as ‘normal’).  When these experiences are not reported, they are not reflected in statistics. In order to compensate for these statistical failings, safe cities for women programmes should look to other sources of information on women’s insecurity. This information can come from discussions with women and girls living in the community, and interviews with police officers, health care workers, service providers and community organizations (Cowichan Women Against Violence Society, 2002, page 6).

Data Sources for Diagnosing Violence and Insecurity

There are multiple sources of data that can be used to diagnose violence and insecurity in a community. Some will be more readily available in a community and others not feasible.  A combination of sources should be combined to create a more well-rounded picture of the situation.

Based on a North American context, a diagnosis report to develop a community-based safety and violence-prevention plan should take approximately four months. It suggests that Information collection should involve:

  • A collation of any previous reports on crime, violence and insecurity
  • A collation of reports regarding housing, education, maternal and child health
  • Demographic data (statistics) regarding: population, age structure and composition of households, employment and unemployment rates, average income, proportion of people living in poverty, education levels
  • Mental and physical health indicators regarding: depression, alcohol and drug abuse, HIV infection
  • Information on housing costs and affordability
  • Percentage of population using welfare, government support, or charitable donations
  • Quality of social/physical environments regarding: prevalence of boarded-up housing, housing code violations, school drop-out rates
  • Data from local police, including time of day, week and year regarding: murder, attempted murder, assault, rape, robbery, kidnapping, thefts, break-ins, other property crimes
  • Data from local service agencies (child welfare organizations, hospitals and health care clinics, services for assaulted women, legal clinics, services assisting people who have been in conflict with the law, business associations, services for at-risk groups) regarding: impacts and costs of violence; kinds of services being used most frequently; how services in the community work together; when, where and what violent incidents are most common
  • Data from a local victimization survey (to be created and completed by a Safe Cities Programme or similar organization)

Source: Whitzman, C. 2008. The Handbook of Community Safety, Gender and Violence Prevention, EarthScan, United Kingdom: pages 164 – 181.

The Handbook of Community Safety, Gender and Violence Prevention recommends that a report, based on the elements outlined above, would include “a description of the area; the prevalence, manifestations and consequences of violence and crime, compared, if possible, with a national average or some other comparative data; a sense of data; some sense of who the victims and offenders are; trends over time; a sense of particular locations where violence is most prevalent (this could include people’s homes); particular times of the day/week/month/year when violence occurs; immediate trigger circumstances; and longer-term root causes that have been identified. The report should also include existing safety activities and their effectiveness, and some potential new source of new energy and ideas” (180).


Example: Learning from Women to Create Gender Inclusive Cities: Baseline Findings from the Gender Inclusive Cities Programme (2010). This publication documents the process of collecting baseline information on women's safety and gender inclusion in four different cities (Rosario, Argentina; Petrozavodsk, Russia; Delhi, India; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania). Information was collected using three main methodologies: street survey interviews, focus group discussions and women's safety audits. The results from each city are presented, with an analysis of the state of women's safety and gender inclusion cross-regionally. Available in English.




Keep the same criteria for all of the information collected to facilitate comparability.

Information on women’s safety in the city or community can be difficult to compare because it is often collected from different sources (see Canadian Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women, 2002, page 7). For example, statistics might give a number of reported rape cases for one neighbourhood, while in another neighbourhood, a women’s organization might offer anecdotal evidence of how likely it is that a woman will be raped. Based on these two sources of information, it is difficult to decide what neighbourhood is more likely to require safe cities for women programming. In order to make comparisons easier, look for information which is measured the same way, whenever possible. If your safe cities programme involves several groups collecting information, establish common research criteria for everyone. For example, have everyone collect data about the same age group and gender within the same timeframe, if possible. This strategy enables comparisons between the data to be collected.


Understanding Women’s Safety: Towards a Gender-Inclusive City (2010). This report was created by Jagori within the context of the Gender Inclusive Cities Programme. It details factors which contribute to women’s and girls’ lack of safety and inclusion in public spaces in Delhi, based on information gathered from street survey interviews, focus group discussions and women’s safety audits. Available in English 

Desk Research (Gender Inclusive Cities Programme, 2009). This tool, developed by the Gender Inclusive Cities Programme, is designed to help safe cities for women programme partners research basic information on safety in their community. Programme partners can use this template to create a city profile that covers demographic, economic, socio-cultural and governance information. The template also includes questions for programme partners to answer on crime, including on gender-related crime issues. Available in English.

Methodologies to Measure the Gender Dimensions of Crime and Violence (Shrader, E., 2001). The World Bank – Latin America and Caribbean Region. This guide outlines different methods for measuring gender-based crime and violence. The methods covered include homicide rates, crime statistics, victimization surveys, prevalence surveys, service statistics, knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) studies, opinion polling, victim interviews, focus groups, participatory appraisal (rural and urban), and more. Each methodology is explained and its benefits and drawbacks are discussed. Available in English.

Finding Evidence for Sexual Violence Prevention Programmes, Andrés Villaveces for PREVENT [Preventing Violence through Education, Networking and Technical Assistance], no date). The University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, USA []. This website carries an annotated slideshow presentation detailing how organizations and governments can find information on which to base sexual violence prevention programmes. The presentation aims to help participants identify what data makes solid evidence, identify different sources of evidence, use literature as a source of evidence, and decide what kinds of scientific sources provide the most appropriate kinds of evidence. Many different information sources and research methods are covered. Emphasis is placed on online and academic sources. Available in English, 57:26 minutes.

OECD Gender, Institutions, and Development Database (GID) (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, no date) []. This online database provides users with statistical information and composite indicators, broken down by country, on women's status in society (e.g. freedom of movement, access to bank loans, incidence of? violence against women). The database can be used by a safe cities for women programme in order to establish norms or baseline information on women's and girls' experiences of safety and insecurity on a day-to-day basis. Results can be broken down by region and/or income group. Available in English and French.

OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, no date) []. This online index provides users with a composite measure of gender discrimination based on social institutions, by country. This measure is the result of combining statistical information in five main areas: family code, physical integrity, son preference, civil liberties, and ownership rights. Ranking and profile information is given for over 100 countries. The database can be used in safe cities for women programmes in order to establish norms or baseline information on women's and girls' experiences of safety and insecurity on a day-to-day basis. Available in English.  "OECD" added to title, as per website

Assessing Violence against Women: A Statistical Profile (Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women, 2002). This guide offers background information, guidance, and examples on collecting statistical data on violence against women. Municipal governments and services can use the guide to develop a framework for measuring women’s safety in their communities. In particular, the first section of the guide focuses on developing indicators related to violence, and offers advice on collecting data based on previous challenges and lessons learned. Available in English.

The UNECE Gender Statistics Website (2010) provides users with a host of resources related to collecting gender statistics. Information is provided on gender statistics and gender issues. Guides, manuals, videos and training materials are provided for statisticians, researchers and public officials on the subject. Links to further resources and related networks are also provided. Available in English.  

Developing Gender Statistics: A Practical Tool (DRAFT) (2010). This tool, produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, provides an excellent overview for collecting all kinds of gendered statistics, from time use surveys to victimization surveys.  Guidance is also provided for implementing a gender statistics programme, with information on related legislation, fundraising and more. Example training curricula are included.  Available in English.

Improving Statistics on Gender Issues in the Asia-Pacific Region (UNIFEM East and South East Asia Region, 2003). This webpage presents an overview of projects conducted in the Asia-Pacific region focused on instituting and improving the collection of gender-disaggregated statistics. Information is provided on the projects, lessons learned while implementing the projects, and monitoring and evaluation results from the projects. Available in English.  

Hidden in Plain Sight: Sexual Harassment and Assault in the New York Subway System (Office of the Manhattan Borough President, City of New York, 2007). This report is a response to the lack of available statistics on sexual harassment and assault in the New York subway system. It documents statistical information on threats of sexual harassment and assault, timing of sexual harassment and assault occurrences, reports of sexual harassment and assault to authorities, and witness experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Based on these statistics, a set of recommendations was provided to the city and the city’s police department. The report details its data collection methodology (based on an online survey), survey results, and recommendations. It also provides a copy of the 3-page survey used to gather information. Safe cities for women programmes can use this report as a starting point for guidance on collecting hard-to-get transit data and gender disaggregated statistics. Available in English.


Research the policy context and municipal initiatives put in place to address violence, crime, and safety issues, and their responsiveness to women and gender equality concerns.

Contact local government officials and other key informants and ask what kinds of actions city or community representatives have taken with regards to women’s and girls’ safety in the community. These initiatives will help indicate the degree of priority that has been placed on community (and women’s) safety in the past; what have been the experiences and results of any prior interventions; what other sources of information or potential partners should be contacted; and critical gaps or problems with existing local policies and programmes. Sometimes existing policies and programmes directed towards urban safety fail to help women and girls feel safer (Michaud, 2001, page 7), because policy-makers and decision-makers are not informed about women’s and girls’ particular safety needs. (For instance, there may be a municipal policy in place to only provide transit stops every mile in areas with low population densities. As a result, women and girls in these areas may have to walk long distances by themselves in isolated areas that do not feel safe.)

Example: Making Delhi safe for women: Towards a strategic framework (2010).

This PowerPoint presentation, developed by Jagori and UN-Habitat, provides information on the context within which programmes and actions on women’s safety take place in Delhi. It discusses issues identified as problematic for women’s safety in the city, and then sets out a series of strategic intervention areas. An outline, of short, medium and long-term interventions are also discussed. Available in English.



The Good Governance Report Card on Gender and Development,   (The Urban Governance Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme, 2000). This online tool allows users to evaluate their municipal government (mayors, governors, city administrators) on issues related to gender and development. Using the format of a report card, users "score" their government's performance in different categories, including: participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability, and strategic vision. Within each category, suggested indicators are provided. Safe cities for women programmes can use the report card format to gauge how responsive their municipal government is to gender needs. This information can be used to decide which areas of government are most likely or least likely to support women's safety initiatives. Available in English.

Guidelines for a Gender Analysis: Human Rights with a Gender (San Francisco CEDAW Task Force/Commission on the Status of Women, 2000). This guidebook is meant to direct local-level officials in San Francisco in implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Municipal level officials in many cities can follow these guidelines to collect gender disaggregated data, conduct an analysis of their operations to determine if the city is meeting gendered human rights principles, create recommendations to ensure gender equality and safety among different departments, generate an action plan to implement recommendations, and work to monitor actions taken for CEDAW implementation. Local-level government examples are provided throughout the guide. Available in English.

“Map of Gaps: The postcode lottery of Violence against Women support services in Britain” (Equality and Human Rights Commission, no date). []. This report and tool document where violence against women services are provided in Britain. The extent to which each service is used is recorded on a colour-coded map, which provides a visual representation of areas that are strong or weak in terms of support to end violence against women. Part of the tool is an interactive website where users can enter their postal codes to find out about what services are available in their area. Users are also provided with information on which local political representatives have or have not committed to providing adequate services in the area. Available in English.

'How Women-Friendly is Your City?' in A City Tailored to Women: The Role of Municipal Governments in Achieving Gender Equality (Michaud, A., 2004). Canadian Federation of Municipalities and City of Montreal’s Femmes et ville (Women in the City)  Program, 2004: page 50. This evaluation tool was developed for use by municipal governments, as well as local citizens. Users complete a checklist in order to rate whether or not local policies and programmes consider the needs of women and girls. Safe cities for women programmes can use the tool to identify policy and programme levels that do not consider gender (political structures, administrative structures, partnership structures, etc.). Using this information, initiatives can work to include gendered safety perspectives in problem areas. Available in English, French and Spanish.

An Introduction to Gender Audit Methodology: Its Design and Implementation in DFID Malawi (Moser, C., 2005). Overseas Development Institute, UK. This guide is intended for organizations and government bodies who wish to undergo a gender audit.  It provides an overview of different kinds of gender audit methods, and focuses on an audit conducted by DFID Malawi. A detailed summary of evaluation steps is provided (i.e. measuring data, agreeing on an action plan), as are exemplary materials from the DFID Malawi case. Safe cities programmes can use the gender audit methodology to identify safety policies, practices and programmes that do not take gender into account. Available in English.

In Inclusion Lens: Workbook for Looking at Social and Economic Exclusion and Inclusion. (Shookner, M., 2002). Health Canada. This training manual's purpose is to help policy- and decision-makers, as well as community organizations, to identify how policies, programmes, legislation and practices include or exclude specific groups, including women and girls. This is an important tool for safe cities for women programmes to adapt in order to analyze already-existing safety policies and programmes. Background information is provided, as are worksheets to help create “an inclusion lens” for assessing existing policies, programmes, legislation and practices. Available in English and French.

Gender Self-Assessment Tool (Audit Commission, UK, no date) This online tool is a checklist designed to help municipal government councils understand where their strengths and weaknesses are with reference to gender mainstreaming. Once the form has been completed, councils can compare their progress with others and receive information on how to improve. Safe cities for women programmes can use this tool to assess where government policies do and do not meet the needs of women. This information can be used to determine where and with how much ease women's safety considerations can be inserted into government policy. Available in English.

The GLOVE Project, Australia (no date). In Melbourne, Australia, the municipal government has teamed up with the University of Melbourne to create the GLOVE Project -- Gender, Local Governance and Violence Prevention: Making Links Between Violence in Private and Public Space Project. This project is primarily research-based and aims at developing government policies that respond to all gender violence through techniques of community-university partnership and gender mainstreaming. This project builds upon previous initiatives such as the 2001 document Growing Victoria Together, which argues that building a safe community is important. More information on the GLOVE project is available in English.

Use students as researchers.

Gathering information on the existing safety conditions for women and girls in any city or community can be difficult and time-consuming. This is especially true in areas where municipalities do not specifically address safety from a gender perspective and have no programmes or networks through which to access information. In these cases, it could be beneficial to partner with local educational facilities to provide practical research experience to students in exchange for help with research (Dean, 2002). However, it is important to note that all researchers involved in safe cities for women programmes (not only students), need to be sensitized and trained on ethical standards for researching violence against women.


Putting Women First: Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Research on Domestic Violence against Women (Department of Gender and Women's Health, World Health Organization, 2001). This tool provides researchers with an introductory guide on how to perform ethically sensitive and safe research on women who have experienced domestic violence. Guidance is provided in the areas of respondent safety, methodologies to avoid under-reporting, confidentiality protection, researcher training and support, respondent referrals, and proper handling of research findings. Researchers on safe cities for women can use these guidelines in their own work, to ensure that women subjects who have experienced violence remain safe. Available in English, French and Spanish.