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Edita: Instituto Juan de Herrera. Av. Juan de Herrera 4. 28040 MADRID. ESPAÑA. ISSN: 1578-097X

The European Charter for Women in the City



City & Shelter - Belgium
FOPA Dortmund - Germany
Groupe Cadre de Vie - France
PRAXIS - Greece
SEIROV-NIROV - The Netherlands



This action-oriented research was co-financed by the European Commission - Directorate-General (DGV) for Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs
Equal Opportunity Unit: Agnès HUBERT (Head of Unit)

Working party

Scientific Committe

We are grateful to all those who contributed to compiling these documents; our special thanks to Miriam Brunson (translations), Carole Christophe (positive action catalogue, translations and proof-reading), for their contributions, we wish to thank all those whose arguments and ideas were included in one way or another in this charter.



Action-Oriented Research Co-financed by the Commission of the European Union Equal Opportunities Unit *1994 *1995*
Moving towards a Gender-Conscious City
A Common Platform for Discussion at European Level
Parity in Democracy will Improve Living Conditions for All


The Charter is viewed as a lasting and open analytical process containing a series of concrete proposals which might be put into practice in order to take into account and to promote increasingly active citizenship by women in regional and town planning as a whole.
One of the presuppositions is that a woman's self-interest does not exist as such, but that women may act as catalysts in the process of change and of improvements of living conditions of all concerned.

Purposes of the Charter

The proposal for a "Charter for Women in the City" aims at conceiving a new philosophy in town planning, likely to make a constructive contribution to a true democratic debate which will take into account the needs and the different expectations of citizens, women and men alike. Efforts for revitalising cities must converge to create, newer, political and economic priorities aiming at increased social harmonisation. The issue at stake is to recreate spaces and close social ties with increased equal opportunities for women and men in urban and rural life.

The aim of this Charter is to promote a more liberated society, free from all stereotypes which hinder any development in town planning and services, housing, safety and mobility.

Cities must therefore be rethought and remodelled with a woman's perception, which will be instrumental in giving them a new balance and another dimension.

The quest for a new city philosophy

Changing outlooks and view pointss
Change will be achieved by :

Gender in a plural society

Taking into account social, cultural and historical relationships between women and men is essential for initiating any change.
This will eventually require :

Some declarations

"In order to keep the situation from going from bad to worse, today's societies should launch a debate on their future and possible options and priorities. This implies that we consider meaning rather than means and that moral, ethical and human - rather than mercantile - values must be restored." (Professor Michel Beaud teaches economics at the Université of Paris VII - Jussieu - Le Monde 6 September 94)

"Women pay particular attention to how things actually work. For instance, when it comes to developing pedestrian precincts, I usually go and see for myself how things are coming along. Most of the time, engineers are men and they tend to think in terms of men's shoes. If a town is to be accessible and pleasant for everybody, why, then it should be remembered that women do not always wear low-heeled shoes. If pavements are well conceived, this also means that the disabled might move freely without stumbling upon uneven surfaces or other hazards. What I try to achieve at a political level is to start out from actual daily occurrences. A woman's position is important to me in that way, i.e. in the variety of issues where women come in".../...

"It is not enough to demand parity or equality, we must go out and get it, and women are quite up to it. I feel it is very important because I am convinced that women in their way of working in politics, always seek alternative solutions rather than struggle for power." (Catherine Trautmann, Mayor of Strasbourg, interviewed by Véronique Degraef 1994).

"Admitting that being a woman is a general category should merely encourage every woman to express her individual nature. And this expression is no more "male" than it is "female", it cannot be generalised, it is unique and incomparable; and only as such, is an innovation, a potential contribution to a lucid civilisation, highly aware of its constraints..." (Julia Kristeva - Les Cahiers du Grif - Groupe de Recherche et d'Informations féministes - 1975).

A definition of "gender"

Feminist theories, numerous as they are, have at least one point in common which is the starting-point for all : gender as it is structured in society, and in every society, subject to a variety of forms, is affected by the power one gender has over the other, and by the role and image it attributes to the other gender.
Therefore gender and gender relationships must be theoretically and politically reviewed and redefined. In their present state, gender issues are historical products and, though secular, do not embody the truth about gender.
Though united in their denunciation, opinions nevertheless diverge, and with hindsight, two streams of thought may be distinguished.
The first, which may be called "essentialiste", supports the view that constructions have concealed and perverted an essence or nature of femininity which therefore should be brought to light.
The second, which may be said to be humanist or rationalist, supports the view that all is nothing but sexual division and that, as such, is objectionable and that men and women, though different, are all endowed with the same reason, unduly annexed by men to this day.../...

by Françoise Collin
Author, philosopher
Abstract from a written contribution to "Présences 1991" "Deux sexes, c'est un monde" (Gender makes a world).

The declaration of the European Charter for women in the city

The Motivation

"The City is an organized Memory"
"Women are the forgotten ones in History"
(quote from the philosopher Hannah Arendt)

women are absent from, or particularly unobtrusive in, all decision making levels related to cities, housing and town planning. Whereas they are as yet very little involved in the major political, economic and social issues at stake. Whereas their particular needs are hardly taken into account in planning and programs, as they are usually overridden by the decision makers' totally different interests;

living conditions in the city - viz. the neighbourhood and housing - influence and affect to a great extent the daily lives of its inhabitants; women in particular are affected as they in addition often carry out a double day's work and therefore have to rely to great extent on quality city services and how this affects transport and environmental policies.

most women are doubly excluded as city users and as town and housing planners;

in order to be a "born-citizen", one must be from somewhere, and this home, far from being a neutral element, predisposes by its very nature and quality, how this citizenship will be expressed. Whereas today, and indeed historically, the rules of the game and priorities, especially political and budgetary ones, are defined mainly by men, who are convinced they are acting in the interest of all;

women are the most discriminated against when it comes to employment, that they are the poorer segment of society and therefore bear the major burden of the side-effects of dysfunctional (such as housing, lack of mobility, and violence in particular). For all these reasons, women have a direct interest in improving urban development and rural planning;

town planning considers only nuclear families in which a woman's lot is largely reduced to housework and a man's job is usually the only one away from home. This model, which has fixed social stereotypes, has been less typical for several decades now and no longer represents but a minority, is gradually being replaced by new types of families which town planning has neither foreseen nor taken into account, thereby creating renewed dysfunction and social tension.

many European and cities world-wide are going through a crisis and jeopardising social balances and peace. This state of affairs is due to the complexity of the problems which the required be solved as a whole. Obsolete urban theories and methods curb any development and innovation, and generate and perpetuate cities in crisis. The Charter of Athens of Le Corbusier which divided cities into single-function districts introduced distortions and has led, in time, to serious disturbances. Tangible results are troubled city districts, social outcasts, as well as the social and economic costs arising from commuting between the home and the work place. Pollution and heavy traffic in cities are also due to urban policies. Quality in city life is seriously jeopardised and if cities are to have any future at all, this handicap has to be tackled.

cities must now face major and unprecedented challenges to achieve the following objectives: environmental preservation and sustainable development, improved quality of life for all, including increased equality, solutions to urban malfunctions and the fight against exclusion, active and balanced democracy for a plural society, in which women are actively involved.
A new approach and fundamental structural changes are unavoidable if a European town planning policy is to deal effectively with these challenges. In any case, nothing will be solved without women's contribution, democratically legitimate on the one hand, and as an essential source for renewal in urban dynamics on the other.

The 12-Point Declaration

  1. Women in the City and Active Citizens
    A more realistic democratic representation
    The quest for a new planning philosophy

    >> Active citizenship must be approached on the one hand through careful consideration of the influence of dwelling place and on the other, of how representative authorities and economic and political mechanisms in the city work.

    Limitations on a woman's full access to city life must be removed through new means which will promote active citizenship.
    Women, whether in their private or public lives, have still to identify themselves with, and appropriate, areas and services in their daily environment before becoming fully-fledged citizens.
    This means taking steps to reveal persisting discriminatory practices against women in town planning and management.
    This kind of discrimination is the result of historical social and cultural conditioning which has moulded the differences between men and women, not only as regards town planning and quality of life, but broader economic, social and cultural exclusion as well. Cities have become a mirror this type of discrimination.

  2. Women in the City and Decision Making and Parity in Democracy
    Parity in democracy at all decision-making levels
    Being part of the decision-making process is essential for emancipation

    >> Women at all times must partivipate at all levels of the decision-making process at all levels regarding town planning, urban space, housing, transportation and environmental quality.

    Women are very poorly represented in town and country planning as well as in housing policies. Cities were built without women and are still largely developed without their contributions. Their daily concerns are not a political priority.
    Women must therefore be equally involved with all matters pertaining to living conditions. They must be heard in every debate and be consulted in every political and technical decision, from local to European level. Women represent half of the talent and potential qualifications on the planet, and their low representation in key positions is a loss for society as a whole.
    The urban project is a major issue on the eve of the XXIst century: any democratic revival must necessarily include promoting women's participation in decision-making processes.

  3. Women in the City and Equal Opportunities
    Because democratic evolution is not spontaneous

    >> Equal opportunities must be promoted in education and research, in work places and in all professions relate to town and country planning, urban space, housing, mobility and safety in cities.

    Incentive policies must be launched in order to promote women's involvement in activities linked to town planning and the building industry.
    Mentalities must change, as they remain to this day very misogynous in these areas, through a substantial change the notion of "women at home" conveyed by the media and school books, and through the example of creative women leadership, women architects and women town planners.
    Women graduates in architecture and town planning must be encouraged to join the professions and be acknowledged by them.

  4. Women in the City and Participation
    Create intermediate decision levels.
    Strategies for change.

    >> Equitable participatory processes must be set up for women which will favour renewed ties of solidarity.

    True "egalitarian urban democracy" must contribute to an exchange of points of view and help to come to the right decisions in housing, work, co-operative societies, cultural values and environmental quality .
    Women must have access to information about welfare administration, decision-making practices concerning the management of public funds, how to provide for needs, responding to women's hopes and a wide range of potential solutions.
    Women as well as male inhabitants must be allowed space for managing individual initiatives and self-sufficiency. These are intermediate decision levels which might eventually lead to active citizenship and a debate on issues of general interest, and particularly of women's interests.

  5. Women in the City and Daily Life
    Create synergy of practical steps.

    >> Daily life as seen through a woman's eyes must become a political issue.

    A woman's approach to life in the city should lead to a different approach to iniquities in relation to minorities and to "invisible groups" of which women are a part. Town planning, city networks and environmental quality as perceived through daily life should take into account new variables.
    Women, who will have become aware of their personal identities, their capabilities for intervention and their needs, will be able to strengthen social ties and take a more active part in dealing with day-to-day contingencies.

  6. Women in the City and a Sustainable Development
    We are merely borrowing the Planet Earth from our children.

    >> Women must be fully involved in policies for maintaining the ecological equilibrium on our planet.

    Preserving nature has become a major issue in a sustainable town development (Rio Summit) Women are highly aware of the issues linked to the quality of their environment; they know that it has become a major political challenge for future development (Agenda Item 21). Women's movements are particularly sensitive to this and are fully concerned with this new dimension in the economy and in town planning.

  7. Women in the City and Social Safety and Mobility
    Women too have a right to the city.
    Key elements for change: safety and mobility for women.

    >> Every woman, and particularly underprivileged or isolated women, must have easy access to public transport in order to circulate freely and to fully enjoy economic, social and cultural life in the city.

    Safety in cities, both day and night, should be completely rethought while taking into account women's points of view. As they remain vulnerable targets when it comes to violence and aggression, town planning must be reviewed and carefully considered in terms of proper conduct.
    As women who are socially or culturally excluded run the double risk of being trapped in their own isolation, their needs must be taken into special account by policies for increasing women citizens' mobility.
    A safe city will promote mobility for all and for women especially. Feeling safe will greatly contribute to social cohesion.

  8. Women in the City and the Right to Housing and Habitat
    Key elements for change: quality and diversity in housing and proximity public services.

    >> Women are entitled to adequate housing and habitat.

    Lack of appropriate space in the neighbourhood for women's needs, conceived for and by them, leads to a loss of identity and to limited active citizenship. Public and private spaces, as a whole, are conceived and produced essentially by men or on male criteria, do not take the least of needs as expressed by women and lack in concern for the diversity of needs. Moreover, appropriate housing also includes convenient public services which are instrumental in reducing chores still largely shouldered by women.
    Women are also very much aware that space specifically conceived for growing children are woefully lacking.

  9. Women in the City and Gender Issues
    Promoting gender-related education and a new democratic philosophy.
    >> Gender issues in the city must be acknowledged as the source for a newly shared culture and should participate in establishing a new town and country planning philosophy.

    The study of the historic, social and cultural relationships between men and women may contribute towards devising new and increasingly realistic solutions to the urban crisis and improving the quality of life of all city dwellers. Gender as a branch of knowledge of social relationships between men and women is an efficient means for abolishing stereotypes and approaching urban life from a different point of view.

  10. Women in the City and Education and Local Experimentation
    Acquiring knowledge and know-how.
    Constant follow-up of the various stages of progress.
    Experimenting on life scale.

    >> Gender issues in cities must be taught in schools, institutes for architecture and town planning, and in universities. Experimentation in cities is urgently needed if any changes are to occur.

    Research and assessment are essential for measuring the extent of discrimination against women in cities. Gender issues in cities must therefore be taught in universities and in colleges and be acknowledged as an indispensable branch of knowledge.
    Pilot projects are also recommended for generating fresh political attitudes that take account of gender issues.

  11. Women in the City and the Role of the Media and Transmitting Experience
    Transmitting and spreading knowledge and know-how.

    >> The media must set out to spread messages which will counteract stereotypes and show women in roles reflecting their development and emancipation.

    New research and discoveries must be transmitted and distributed on a wide scale by the media if they are to be prime movers in social changes through abolishing obsolete social figures which hinder emancipation in society as a whole.

  12. Women in the City and Networks
    Circulating the Charter
    Setting the stage for change through strong and assertive policies at European level.

    >> Exchanging information through a European network will promote the Charter and implement its 12 points.

    A European network for exchanging information is an essential tool for pro-active programmes and a change of attitudes. Contributions of the kind from, for instance, Scandinavian countries and North America will in all likelihood give rise to other, new types of pro-active programmes. Linking up to other international networks is important for developing world-wide solidarity between women on similar issues and to firmly anchor a European presence in other continents, particularly in international bodies.


Proposition of a political outline of the European Charter for Women in the City

"Transforming Daily Life into a Political Issue"

An active citizenship from the bottom up

Making a statement from the outset
The environment for daily life and employment of time in the city
Factors that discriminate against women

Towards Parity in Democracy


EUROPEAN UNION European Commission
Implementing European Measures

MEMBER STATES National Governments
Implementing National Measures

Middle course objetive improved living conditions for all.

Fecha de referencia: 27-11-1998

1: The complete version of this document is part of the CD-Rom97: City, Citizenship and Gender by City and Shelter

European Charter for Women in the City
Action-Oriented Research Co-financed by the Commission of the European Union Equal Opportunities Unit *1994 *1995*

Boletín CF+S > 7 -- Especial: MUJER Y CIUDAD >

Edita: Instituto Juan de Herrera. Av. Juan de Herrera 4. 28040 MADRID. ESPAÑA. ISSN: 1578-097X
Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible
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Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad
Departamento de Estructuras y Física de la EdificaciónDepartamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio