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Make cities safer for girls

A girl stands in a street in Delhi, India

Make cities safer for girls

Around the world, girls aren't feeling safe in the cities they're growing up in

The world’s cities aren’t safe for girls. Our research shows girls are facing abuse, physical and sexual harassment and exploitation, and they’re having to pick up the pace when they find themselves in ‘no go’ areas as they make their way home.

For the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas. Every month, five million people move to cities in developing countries – and by 2030, around 700 million girls will be living in these urban environments.

Girls’ safety in cities is a global problem which must be addressed. That’s why our Safer Cities programme is working with girls to ensure they have access to, and can move freely in, public spaces, and are participating in decision-making about their cities.

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In 2016, an incredible 28,000 of you stood with young people around the world and signed their petition, asking world leaders to make girls the priority when considering future city planning.

Youth campaigners from Ecuador delivered the global petition at the third United Nations’ Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito. They also took the petition to the Ecuadorian National Assembly, where their Government approved the recommendations, pledging to make cities safer in Ecuador.

Maribel is as afraid on public transport as she is on the streets of Quito
Maribel, 19, is a youth advocate for Plan International Ecuador.


Cities offer all kinds of opportunities for girls: they’re more likely to be educated and politically active, and less likely to be married at an early age. But girls can’t make the most of the opportunities their cities offer if they don’t feel safe.

“On the streets there’s a lot of crime. I feel threatened,” explains Maribel, a youth campaigner from Quito. “If we can change the way girls and women are treated on the street, then we can truly begin to make cities safer for everyone.”


Through our Safer Cities for Girls programme, developed with UN-HABITAT and Women in Cities International, we want to make sure girls can access and feel safe in public spaces, that they can move around their cities independently, and can participate meaningfully in the decisions being made about their cities.

To make this happen, we’re working with young people in Cairo, Delhi, Hanoi, Lima and Kampala, to:

  • influence governments and policy makers, to make laws and city services safer and more inclusive
  • work with their families and communities, to create an environment that promotes girls’ safety and inclusion
  • become agents of change in their cities, creating opportunities for meaningful participation in local decision-making.

From girl-led safety walks to scorecards to assess local city services, our Safer Cities activities and resources have been created to be easily adapted, to suit cities and countries around the world. We're also working in partnership with CBRE, who are supporting the Safer Cites for Girls Nairobi project.

Nada travels in a tuk-tuk with her friends in Cairo


“If a girl is on a bus and a man touches her, the bystanders will say he didn’t do anything,” explains 14-year-old Nada, who lives in Cairo. “The community blames girls for anything bad that happens to them.”

Nada is part of our Safer Cities programme in Cairo, where we’re working with communities to ensure girls can go to school or work without fear of violence or harassment. Through the project, girls now have a platform to discuss the problems they face and the opportunity to input into the development of their neighbourhood, through regular meetings with the authorities.

In Kampala, Faridah leads a group of girls committed to making their city safer


18-year-old Faridah is President of the Safer Cities group in her community in Kampala. A year ago, she managed to escape a violent attack in the city – during which her friend was killed.

Today, she’s working with other young people to transform their neighbourhood for girls. Safe spaces have been created where girls can have their needs listened to, and improvements are being implemented – including fixing the dim lighting that puts girls’ lives in danger.  

“Together, we go through what is problematic and look for solutions,” Faridah explains. "In the alley where my friend was attacked, there is now light.”

Malikah, 19
“One time someone asked me to get in a car and I was just like, “No!” I walked away and they were driving alongside on the road at the same speed as me like they were following me." - Malikah, 19, Birmingham


In the UK today, 66% of girls aged 14 to 21 have experienced unwanted sexual attention or harassment in a public place – and they’ve told us they want it to stop.

In response, we’re asking our supporters to say 'It's not OK', as we call on the government to recognise harassment in public as a form of gender-based violence. And through our Stand with Girls programme, we’re empowering girls to know their rights and assess the areas they live in for safety, services and how the needs of girls are met locally, as part of our goal of ending violence against girls.

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