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Making cities safer for girls in Kenya and Uganda

Making cities safer for girls in Kenya and Uganda

For the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas.

But for girls and women, the economic opportunities available in urban areas are often undermined by the dangers they face, as they try to navigate getting to work or accessing education.

Harassment, abuse and intimidation

As with many cities, Nairobi was not designed with girls’ safety in mind. The lack of street lights, walkways and safe public spaces means that girls and women often don’t feel safe travelling to school or work, and they face regular harassment, abuse and intimidation.

Georgina and Hope are youth advocates with Plan International Kenya.
Georgina and Hope are youth advocates with Plan International Kenya.

“In Nairobi, bus conductors and motorbike riders insult girls when they’re passing or physically or sexually harass them,” explains Georgina, a Youth Advocate with Plan International Kenya.

With the support of CBRE EMEA, Plan International’s Safer Cities for Girls project in Nairobi will support girls to make the city more safe, accountable and inclusive.

Together, we’re training and empowering girls and boys to affect the change they want to see in their communities and to campaign for gender equality, reaching out to their peers, parents, community members and the Government.

Girls’ safety and gender equality

In Kampala, youth advocates Norah and Viola are part of the Safer Cities for Girls project and leaders of their local Girls’ Club.

They’ve used their training to engage their community and to organise safety walks, enabling girls to identify unsafe areas in the slums that are in need of development.

“After the safety walks, we analysed the findings and came up with a plan,” explains Viola. “We were given a platform where we met the municipal leaders and demanded they act.”

Youth advocates Norah and Viola engage with drivers in Kampala
Youth advocates Norah and Viola engage with drivers in Kampala.

Today, Viola, Norah and their peers in Kampala have successfully worked with the local Government to install street lights and improve sidewalks in their communities, and to make sure streets are properly named – so girls can let someone know where they are if they feel unsafe.

They’ve also engaged with over 300 public transport motorbike drivers, called boda-bodas, to discuss girls’ safety and gender equality.

“I’m so proud, because we do face challenges as girls when we travel,” says Norah. “We have explained to them about gender, because before you get them understanding gender, you cannot change anything.”

Viola agrees that challenging existing ideas about gender is vital.

"I am passionate about changing the perspective that girls are sexual objects and that we don't have goals," she explains. "I am passionate about making my community change and making it safe."

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