This week we have a guest blog from Tiiseto Mofokeng, examining what decision makers can do in terms of making their wider processes more supportive of inclusive spaces for teenage girls.
Tiisetso studied Architecture at the Tshwane University of Technology and City and Regional Planning at University of Cape Town. Her masters research was focused on an investigation into the safety of public spaces from a gender-sensitive perspective. Tiisetso is particularly interested in women’s empowerment and she is using both architecture and urban planning to help bridge the gap of gender inequality in cities through placemaking, spatial planning and design especially those of public spaces. Tiisetso is a member of the Young Urbanist South Africa, student member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (UK), member of the Young Professional Forum of the Gauteng Institute for Architecture, instructor at the Architecture is Free Foundation, contributor to the Interior Editorial and finally the founder of MeToo Femelle.
Nothing feels safer than a well-maintained city. Councils need to start realising that merely appointing and putting people in charge to patrol the city does not make it safe or inclusive. Yes, it creates job opportunities, which is great but that is about it.
Teenage girls need to be heard. Considering the voices, stories and experiences of teenage girls in how they navigate or experience the city could be the first place of departure. Councils could use this as a problem-solving tool to mitigate crime and vandalism of the public infrastructure in cities. For cities to be and feel inclusive, teenage girls need to feel that they are heard and considered in the planning of cities. Thus, their crucial local knowledge of cities workshopped in city participatory events need not be neglected but be incorporated into planning processes.
This can only be done if leadership and decision-making roles are flexible and not reserved for men. A shift in authority is needed, meaning, women from various backgrounds need to be placed in positions of authority where they can ensure that decision-making is inclusive and holistic in promoting cities that are accommodative to all genders and ages, which in turn can allow teenage girls, in particular, to navigate the city and enjoy the public life without fear.
The previous points now bring me to the question of why budgeting and funding in the planning of cities are crucial? Inclusivity in cities starts from understanding what gender-sensitive planning is and how a gender perspective in planning can aid in ensuring that we plan and design just and inclusive cities. Considering the voices of teenage girls and putting women from different backgrounds in places of authority could help the Council in critically evaluating urban planning plans and policies and structuring them in ways that cities which promote gender-sensitive outcomes are budgeted for and that there is funding put aside to ensure that inclusive cities through a gender-perspective lens are implemented.
Finally, a more collaborative approach is needed in planning processes rather than a mere consultation. The difference between these two concepts is that “consultation is when the decision-makers and other involved stakeholders work together to surface mutual understanding of what makes a group ‘tick’ and leaving it to the authority to make the final decision” (ArtistryLeads, 2019) whereas collaboration provides a process for sharing the decision-making power amongst all involved and affected stakeholders” (ArtistryLeads, 2019). Therefore, until Councils fully embrace and foster a more collaborative approach in planning, cities will remain to be not accommodating and unsafe for teenage girls, thus making them not inclusive and just.
ArtistryLeads. (2019). Know the difference: Input, consultation, or collaboration? [online] Available at: https://artistryleads.com/blog/2019/2/18/know-the-difference-input-consultation-or-collaboration [Accessed 03 November 2022]. -Tiisetso Mofokeng