Putting women at the forefront of urban planning

Putting women at the forefront of urban planning

The Johannesburg Development Agency and Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo have partnered with UN-Habitat and The Wot-if on the Indlela Yabafazi project to explore this question

The project, currently being undertaken in Diepsloot, Region A, is based on the HerCity Toolkit process which is a joint urban development initiative by UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, and the independent Swedish think tank Global Utmaning (Global Challenge).

Other partners to the Her City programme are the Swedish Innovation Agency (Vinnova) with contributions from a range of partners such as the Block-by-Block Foundation (Mojang/Minecraft), White Architects, Swedish Union of Tenants, and MethodKit.

The purpose of Her City is to make methods and tools available to urban actors and cities globally to support cities to scale up and mainstream girls’ participation as a part of their long-term strategies to build sustainable cities and societies.

The digital toolbox guides urban actors to implement projects through a step-by-step methodology that facilitates the ongoing dialogue between professionals and citizens. The toolbox follows a process containing nine building blocks as a digital guideline on how to co-plan and optimise cities from a girl’s perspective. The nine blocks align with the three phases of the urban development process and will guide cities through the assessment phase, the design phase, and the implementation phase.

The aim is to improve the lack of experience in participatory urban planning and design by involving vulnerable and marginal groups in urban development processes, both in research and practice. Inclusive participatory processes are essential for sustainable urbanisation. Often vulnerable and marginal groups such as women, youth, the elderly, and people living with disabilities are not included in these processes.

Last month, the Diepsloot edition of the project kicked off with an introductory engagement session which was about recruiting the young girls, from the area, who will redesign, improve, connect, and enhance identified public places using the Her City toolbox. This was followed up with the girls taking an exploratory walk of the pre-selected route, with 4 sites that they were asked to redesign. During the next phases of the project, the girls will be using their observations to redesign the spaces using Minecraft and other data gathering and design tools.

The JDA has completed several projects in Diepsloot and is currently undertaking public environment upgrades in the area. This is to contribute to efforts in developing safe public environments, in this instance with the design process being led by young women and girls. As residents in the area, they are best placed to inform the urban space assessment and formulation of solutions to reducing their vulnerability in public spaces of Diepsloot.

Expected outcomes and impact of this project

The participants will be involved in a series of workshops, discussions, and forums where they will be responsible for gathering and assessing crucial data that will inform the urban development process. This will result in a section of Diepsloot being ‘modelled’ on their ideas and inputs with the outcome being a development concept of the project area.

The project will also involve a tactical urbanism event where the application of the concepts will be tested using temporary interventions of the re-imagined space. The concepts will also inform future planning and implementation projects to be completed by the City of Johannesburg and JDA should budget commitments be made available for any development interventions in the area.

At the completion of the project, all participants will receive a certificate and a letter of recognition for having participated in the project. The process and results will also be documented by the JDA and UN-Habitat to inspire other cities to engage in similar projects around the world.


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