The Importance of Making Cities Places of Belonging

Mumbai architect Pallavi Shrivastava reflects on the impact that the inaccessibility of the city has on the status of women in society and their ability to shape the future of the places in which they live.

Access to public space in cities like Mumbai is a privilege that many men likely take for granted. The threat of reprehensible behavior facilitated by planned and unplanned urban spaces forces women to devise "their own compromised mode of urban movement," writes Shrivastava, and ultimately limits their role in society. 

"The very idea that women can be out in open urban spaces on their own is not a given in a society where paternalism is so often implicit in even the most well-meaning advice. It is unsurprising that we do not see many women in leadership roles here. With such a deeply ingrained habit of treating women as dependent, and therefore secondary citizens, how does India intend to provide equal access to urban spaces outside their homes?"

"We need to make the city unequivocally a place of belonging, exploration and enjoyment," she argues. "Functional infrastructure in the form of safe public transport, toilets, well-lit streets, and safe urban spaces remains at the core of the issue. But access to public spaces like promenades, beaches, sidewalks, parks, libraries, and running tracks are already required of a well-designed and inclusive city irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or economic class."

"It is our public spaces that communicate a city's attitude towards its citizens. The presence of well-designed infrastructure and inviting places are a measure of its inclusiveness. Can we design urban spaces that are sensitive to everybody?"

Full Story: A woman's right to enjoy the city

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