1. Increasing women’s visibility
2. Safer social housing
3. How cities enable violence against women
4. Positive surveillance
5. Uruguay officials ready to make cities safer for women
6. Growth of gender-based violence in Uruguay
7. Col.lectiu Punt 6 (Point 6 Collective) and the Instituto Mujer y Sociedad (IMS)

Increasing women’s visibility

“How can cities be safer for women?” says Sara Ortiz Escalante, Col.lectiu Punt 6, project coordinator and manager. “Safer cities for women can be achieved by designing so that all areas around cities and housing are visible. You can see and be seen, lights are well distributed, there are no shadows. It means no underground passes, or elevated bridges,” suggests Ortiz Escalante, an urban planner who specialises in making cities safer from a feminist perspective.
The collective also advocates for cities to be free from sexist adverts on public transport or in public spaces, and for urban spaces to be without over-sexualised images of women’s bodies so as not to reproduce violence against women. “Instead, we say, give better visibility of women in public spaces by recognising women’s contributions to society and environment. For example, name a street after a great woman.”

Women Safety Uruguay
Watch the video on YouTube


Safer social housing

The safety audit focuses on housing units, housing developments, intermediate spaces between the “private” and the “public” space, and the surrounding community and neighbourhood. The ultimate goal is to apply the results of the safety audit to new social housing developments. This is why housing cooperatives are a key stakeholder in the programme.
The group of women started their non-profit after the introduction of the Catalan Law of Neighborhoods in 2004. This innovative legislation listed eight ways of improving city spaces of the future. Point six was listed as a gender perspective in the design of urban spaces and facilities. Cleverly, this is the origin of their name and ethos of Punt 6 / Point 6.
The group has had good results in running their programme in the city of Cali, Colombia in 2015-2016. Col.lectiu Punt 6 audited and analysed safety and co-existence issues in the public space and in housing buildings, working with residents of four districts, women’s groups, NGOs, municipal staff, and youth agencies. To them, the voice of local women and their active participation in the process is of utmost importance and their programme involves doing city exploratory walks with different women at different times of day to understand safety and risks, as well as workshops on gender sensitive housing.
Instituto Mujer y Sociedad (IMS), founded in 1985, is focused on human rights and works to change city environments to make them safer, as well as support those who have previously been victims of gender-based violence.

How cities enable violence against women

“Everyday life environments result as enablers and also inhibitors of exercising human rights,” says Magela Batista Gotta, project co-coordinator and manager at IMS. “Collective spaces (public and domestic space) must be protective for people in general.”
Last year, 30 femicides were registered in Uruguay, following the same trend since 2004. Domestic violence complaints have exponentially increased, from 7,000 in 2004 to 30,000 in 2017, the equivalent of one case every 14 minutes. This is according to a presentation from the Ministry of the Interior of Uruguay at its National Observatory on Violence and Crime in November 2017.
“In addition, patriarchal mandates force women to live other forms of violence such as street and sexual harassment on a daily basis,” says Batista Gotta. “These are socially tolerated, and not registered, accounted or politicised.
“In Latin America, safety is an issue of great concern. Public policy responses have mostly centred on patriarchal strategies of militarisation and formal surveillance, without including a gender lens. These approaches have ignored violence against women both in the private and the public sphere,” says Batista Gotta, a bachelor of psychology with a postgraduate diploma in human rights, gender and public policies.

Positive surveillance: Knowing neighbours means more safety

Col.lectiu Punto 6 has an altogether different view of what type of surveillance is needed to make cities safer. “We’re not looking for formal surveillance like CCTV cameras or police officers,” says Ortiz Escalante. “We talk about the surveillance that can be given by the building of real communities. With different activities happening, different people using spaces in diverse ways at different times of the day and night it fosters relationships between different parts of the community. You know the person who sells the bread or newspapers and you feel comfortable and safe asking them for help.”
Making spaces inside and around social and private housing – not just outside environments – safer for women is an important component of Col.lectiu’s idea of what constitutes safe urban spaces. They believe public and private are not separate, but are connected. Women’s lives are not linear, they move between places and spaces, public and private areas, and their lives need to be taken as a whole when planning safety.
When auditing housing in Cali, Colombia they found that properties were not open and friendly and did not feel safe. There were often no windows in communal areas, so people were hidden, there were no maps of the space, so women didn’t feel confident about navigating around and not getting lost or stuck in unsafe dark areas. In such properties there should be windows on to the street, so there is visual connection between inside and outside properties, to provide a perception of safety, believes the collective.

Uruguay officials ready to make cities safer for women

IMS is confident that Uruguay has fertile ground to adopt the Liveable Environments programme. “Uruguay has a long tradition of public participation, which is reflected in the amount of civil society organisations and neighbourhood networks,” according to Batista Gotta.
One of the objectives of the partnership is to include a feminist perspective in urban planning practice and education, integrating public and private life and intermediate spaces. They are planning to work with the City, the university of Montevideo, housing cooperatives and other civil society organisations such as the Uruguayan Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, as well as women’s groups, on the development of an inter-institutional urban safety network.

Growth of gender-based violence in Uruguay

Even though Uruguay has progressed in terms of gender-based violence legislation, recently there has been a huge upsurge and increase in severity of gender violence both in the public and private space, says the IMS team. To respond to this emergency, IMS has opened new lines of work to address gender-based violence focused on guaranteeing women’s full right to the city. The current local political context is favourable to develop this urban safety audit and to replicate its results in city and national public policies, according to IMS.
Positively, they have the formal institutional support of the City of Montevideo to provide data, contacts and logistic support to guarantee the development of the safety audit.  There is also an agreement with the Institute of Theory and Urbanism of the School of Architecture, Design and Urban Planning to exchange information about the safety audit, as well as to involve students and researchers in the development of the safety audit activities.
Currently, urban planning in Montevideo has not included a gender perspective in an explicit, holistic and effective way. The Liveable Environments programme could provide exactly what the city needs to finally tackle violence against women.

Col.lectiu Punt 6 (Point 6 Collective) and the Instituto Mujer y Sociedad (IMS)

Col.lectiu Punt 6 (Point 6 Collective) from Spain and the Instituto Mujer y Sociedad (IMS) from Uruguay have a powerful vision for safer urban areas of the future. That vision is radically differently to how most cities look today. Their vision has seen them reach the prestigious finals of the Womanity Award 2018, titled ‘Safer Urban Environments for Women’.
The Col.lectiu Punt 6 non-profit cooperative of architects, sociologists and urban planners, based in Barcelona, offers a feminist perspective of city planning. That means they design housing and neighbourhoods that are safer and more enjoyable for women. And, actually safer for everyone. They are now looking to expand their urban planning initiative, called “Liveable Environments: A Safety Audit from a Gender Perspective applied to housing and its surroundings” to two neighbourhoods in Montevideo, Uruguay.
To expand the programme, the team plans to work with the IMS, which is based in Uruguay and has a strong history of working in women’s rights and gender-based violence response. Together, as innovation partner and scale up (replication) partner respectively, they plan to start making Uruguayan cities less violent and threatening for women.
The partnership is one of three pairs of finalists in the Award, all looking at different ways of making cities safer for women. The chosen pair of organisations will receive a package of support, mentoring, funds and scale up expertise.
Safer cities for women in Uruguay – Watch on YouTube