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Naples, 12 Sept 12

Teenage girls at a sewing class in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo © D. O'Reilly

UN-Habitat joined hands with Plan International and Women in Cities International at the World Urban Forum this month to launch a new programme at making cities safer for girls.

The new initiative entitled, Because I am a Girl Urban Programme will start in five cities – Cairo, Delhi, Hanoi, Kampala, and Lima.

“Investing in girls as part of this process will not only benefit girls themselves, keeping them safe and building their assets and skills, but will ensure their contribution to building a better world for us all,” said Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat. 

The panelists at the World Urban Forum launch on 2 September discussed how adolescent girls contend with the growing risks and opportunities in the world’s cities.  On the one hand girls are more likely to be educated, less likely to be married at an early age, and more likely to participate in decision-making. On the other hand, they face sexual harassment, exploitation, and insecurity as they navigate the urban environment.   

“It is adolescent girls’ voices that drive this process, and it is our hope that girls will be the city changers of the future,” said Ms. Kathryn Travers, Director of Programmes at Women’s in Cities International. 

Officials said the new programme for girls had been validated by adolescent girls as it was developed. 

“For more than 6 years now, I have been participating in several development activities and programmes with Plan,” said Ms. Sara Mohamed Ali, 18, Plan’s youth delegate. “This has empowered and inspired me to do more for my community and my country in general. I want to become a journalist. I dream about becoming the voice of many marginalised groups who cannot speak for themselves. I know now how to do it very well.” 

Ms. Sarah Hendriks, Global Gender Advisor at Plan International, which works in 50 developing countries to promote child rights and lift children out of poverty, said strategic and targeted investments were required to make urban conditions more responsive to the “unique needs and priorities” of adolescent girls. 

In firm political backing for the initiative, three days later, UN-Habitat launched a new Global Network on Safer Cities. The role of the network will be to push harder and harder for urban safety and local crime prevention around the world.

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