‘For an inclusive city, women need to be at the centre of policymaking’
To bring about an increase in women participation in the India workforce, there is a need to keep women at the centre of urban planning and policy decisions, said women speakers at the WRI India’s Connect Karo-2021 conference on Monday. They also said more women should be part of the decision-making process in order to better address issues faced by women.
The five-day conference will focus on pressing concerns related to climate change, urban planning, and making cities inclusive. Hindustan Times is the media partner of the event.
Citing a World Bank report, Jaya, director of integrated urban planning, WRI India, said women participation in India’s workforce has dropped from 30.27% in the 1990s to 20.8% in 2019. “The pandemic has further aggravated the situation, as it has pushed a lot of women, both in the informal and formal sectors, out of work. It (women participation in workforce) is below 20% after Covid,” she said.
Unsafe public spaces, lack of efficient public transport, access to jobs, availability of facilities such as toilets etc., continue to be major concerns for women workers, especially in urban areas. To change the present scenario, there is a need for greater participation of women in decision-making, said Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha member Priyanka Chaturvedi.
Speaking during the discussion on “women leaders changing conversations in cities”, Chaturvedi said safety is a huge concern for every woman and college/school going girl. “It is the unfortunate truth. Until now, all urban planning has been done from the focus of women not being at the decision-making tables. Their problems have not been addressed — whether it’s regarding toilets, hostels, safe spaces etc.”
Referring to crimes against women, especially in public spaces, Chaturvedi said measures have to be taken to prevent such incidents. It is important to not deny women a seat at the decision-making table and that can be done only through reservation for women in corporations, state assembly and Parliament.
Karnataka MLA Sowmya Reddy, who is also the general secretary, All India Mahila Congress, Karnataka, too said women should get better representation in decision-making bodies.
Cecilia Vaca Jones, executive director, Bernard van Leer Foundation, said there is a need for more women to get involved in designing a city. “It is not just in decision-making roles; we need more women designing the city as well. Therefore, we need more women architects, engineers, planners etc. They should be a part of the ecosystem,” she said.
Also, the urban planning process has to keep women at the centre, said Manu Dangi, chief operating officer, Egon Zehnder KCI. She said there is need to explore possibilities of developing workspaces near residential areas as a lot of women quit work on account of the time taken to commute between home and office.
She also said there is a significant number of educated women, who left work after marriage as they had to relocate or have children. “There is a need to get this workforce back into the mainstream. During the pandemic, people worked from home. If women are given flexible timings, they too can return to work,” Dangi said.
D Thara, joint secretary, Union ministry of housing and urban affairs, said there is a need to look at urban planning of cities again. “The streets will be safer if you have more people, especially women, out in public spaces,” she said.