The world’s cities occupy just 3% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions – United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


In Kenya and Nicaragua, 1/3 of woman-headed urban households suffer from lack of durable housing, insufficient living space, poor access to clean water and insecure tenure – UN Habitat


91% of the world’s road crashes occur in low-income and middle-income countries, even though fewer people own cars than in developed countries – World Health Organization (WHO)


Sustainable cities and settlements are safe, provide for mobility, ensure access to resources, have accessible green and public space, and provide economic opportunities – for all. They practice inclusive, gender-responsive planning that incorporates climate change. In short, they do not make themselves; they require vision, planning, cooperation, attention to human rights and an understanding of the inequalities that can be perpetuated by – or addressed by – the city.

Cities are a paradox. Urbanization is associated with high economic output and wealth creation but also deep economic divisions and entrenched gender inequalities that keep wealth in the hands of the few; with high emissions and energy usage but strong mitigation and efficiency potential; with immense opportunity for creativity but dangers of ‘locking in’ unsustainable, inequitable or obsolete infrastructure (energy, transport etc).


Gender inequalities and gender roles often make women’s contributions invisible. And they also make women’s needs, desires and rights invisible. Gender gaps and discrimination exist in cities, as elsewhere, but they can be magnified in urban areas: gender gaps in employment, decent work, informal work, pay, land tenure rights, access to and control of productive assets, personal security and safety, health care, reproductive and sexual health rights, and representation in formal structures of urban governance. All of this means that even a prosperous city can easily leave women behind.

Climate change, sustainable development and gender equality must be pursued in tandem in order to address gender-differentiated needs – to ensure that transportation, infrastructure, policy development, service provision and environmental sustainability respond to women and men of all ages, races, abilities, economic status and geographical location.

Women bring contributions to sustainable cities – these must be recognized, highlighted, and supported.

Agenda 2030 includes a specific goal on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements, and it includes a link to climate change adaptation and mitigation planning.


  • Participatory, inclusive actions at the local level that can promote and improve gender equality and ensure exercise of women’s rights within a sustainable development frame that benefits all;
  • Capacity building of city officials and relevant partners on intersectional inequalities, women’s human rights and policy design, development and implementation at the local level;
  • Use of a rights-based framework, considering ‘Cities for CEDAW’;
  • Macroeconomic and fiscal policies to increase equity and redistribution of wealth via progressive tax reforms, social protection are implemented (national to local) that facilitate robust decentralized decision making and public finance systems that catalyze sustainable, inclusive cities;
  • Generate and incentivize decent work locally – with living wages, benefits, accessible in terms of place, schedule, requirements. Focusing on the promotion of green growth or green economy activities will not automatically translate into decent jobs, respect for human rights or poverty eradication;
  • Improved collection of data disaggregated by sex, age, (among others), taking into account the different groups in cities;
  • Local development projects and capacity building programs draw upon and fund the knowledge, skills and local expertise of grassroots women’s organizations and communities and facilitate the transfer of community women’s effective sustainable development practices across neighborhoods, cities, and regions;
  • A focus on mobility: safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport for all in urban and periurban areas, and to primary rural communities.

join the movement

Women and girls around the world are demanding and creating systemic change and a sustainable future for all. We need collective power to attain a just future – we need you.