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.

2 minute read

February 27, 2013, 5:00 AM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


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?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 in The Global Urbanist

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Rail tracks on the left, rustic log-built train station painted reddish brown with a green metal roof and concrete platform on the right, evergreen forest and bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds in the background.

More Passenger Rail Coming to Montana

Planning is underway to restore a 45-year-defunct regional passenger rail line connecting southern Montana to Billings and Amtrak’s east-west Empire Builder line from Seattle to Chicago.

May 14, 2024 - 8KPAX

Apartment For Rent Sign

HUD Proposal Would Soften ‘One-Strike’ Policy

Formerly incarcerated people are often barred from publicly subsidized housing, putting them at higher risk for homelessness and recidivism.

May 20 - Truthout

Water flowing through Glendale Narrows section of Los Angeles River in Glendale, California with a concrete bridge, power lines, and hills in background.

Los Angeles County Making Progress in Stormwater Capture

During this “super year” of storms, L.A. County has successfully captured 96 billion gallons of stormwater which is enough to meet the needs of about 2.4 million people a year.

May 20 - Los Angeles Times

Aerial Texas Hill Country at sunset, with an aerial view of a highway interchange and Interstate 35 in Austin, Texas.

The True Cost of Texas Highways

An explainer of the monetary, environmental, and social costs of exuberant road building.

May 20 - KERA News

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.