How women are leading sustainable and resilient cities

This week the ECOCITY World Summit 2017 will bring together in Melbourne representatives of government, business, civil society and academia to address the unprecedented ecological challenges facing cities all around the world. Through a series of speakers, plenaries and panel discussions, the Summit will showcase expert knowledge and provide opportunities for knowledge exchange between these key city stakeholders.

One of the panels that I’ve helped curate will discuss the role of women in leading and creating sustainable and resilient cities. Ultimately, women’s leadership is key in promoting sustainability and resilience as well as building equitable and inclusive cities and communities. I will be joined in this Urban Leadership session by five impressive women to answer questions on the unique components of women leadership that need to be further encouraged, and how to overcome barriers that women face in reaching positions of leadership. I look forward to hearing solutions with Kate Auty, Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment ACT Government Canberra Australia; Milag Ballesteros, Regional Director C40 Asia- East, Southeast and Oceania; Karibaiti Taoaba, Regional Director Commonwealth Local Government Forum for the Pacific, Fiji; Johanna Partin, Director Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance; Councillor Samantha Ratnam of the City of Moreland, Victoria, Australia.

Diversity of all forms is important in political representation, such that governing bodies reflect the communities they represent. Gender is no exception. Women in government around the world are acting on sustainability and climate change, raising their voices to represent and better their communities. Whether solely leading by example or through targeted gender mainstreaming policies, women’s leadership also paves the way for inclusivity and gender equality. Through their service and often their policies, these leaders are championing the integration of a gender perspective into sustainable urban planning.

Many women leaders are fighting for resilient and sustainable cities. They are showcasing their climate leadership by implementing solutions such as ecomobile transport and low carbon policies. Many are also incorporating a gender perspective into their city planning, promoting citizen participation to create inclusive and equitable cities.

Through the ICLEI network I know of hundreds of women leaders at all levels of city and sub national governments, elected or officers, showing great strength and innovation towards better futures for their communities. Leaders such as Mayor Sara Katrin Jammeh of Malmö, Sweden and Mayor Monica Fein of Rosario, Argentina are showing the value of women’s climate leadership. As members of the Global Covenant of Mayors they are setting ambitious emissions reduction targets for their cities, developing mitigation and adaptation actions, and reporting through the carbonn Climate Registry to show the city’s progress.

Women are also leading the way in developing and implementing new forms of inclusive and equitable ecomobile transport. From the development of a stronger cycling and pedestrian culture in Malmö to the leadership that Mayor Chen Chu of Kaohsiung has shown as the Chair of the EcoMobility Alliance, technological innovation is being tied to social inclusion, aiming to create smart and livable cities. In the case of mobility and the creation of public spaces, incorporating a gender perspective is particularly important. The city of Malmö employs a gender mainstreaming approach, incorporating a gender perspective across all city planning and development projects, a policy that is reflected in the success they have achieved in crafting an inclusive and gender equitable transport culture.

Leaders such as Mayor Monica Fein of Rosario, Argentina and Municipal President Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Seberang Perai, Malaysia are showing their commitment to inclusivity and gender equality through local participatory budgeting. Gender sensitive participatory budgeting not only promotes citizen inclusion and gender equality within those citizen participation bodies but also raises awareness of gender perspectives for male and female citizens and decision makers more broadly.

See more on how these four women leaders are promoting sustainability and resilience in their respective cities below.

  • Malmö, Sweden: Mayor Sara Katrin Jammeh. With Mayor Sara Katrin Jammeh at the helm, Malmö is applying a gender mainstreaming approach that incorporates a gender perspective into all elements of city planning. Mayor Jammeh highlights the cross-cutting benefits of ecological and social sustainability, showing how building sustainable cities improves livability and inclusivity; incorporating a gender perspective into sustainable planning only increases those benefits. For instance, these are all elements that contribute to Malmö’s approach to transport planning, a long term effort that earned the city the European Mobility Week Award in 2016.