“The City We Need Now!” (TCWNN) is a campaign by UN Habitat that is inclusive and promotes gender equality. Prof. Analia Pastran, Co-Chair of the Professionals Group and Member of the Steering Committee of the UN Habitat’ World Urban Campaign, on the importance of female professional alliances.
“The world would be a different place if its nations believed and practised what’s been called “womenomics”, a theory linking the advancement of women to increased development rates” – add “cities” to “nations” in this statement by UN News and we arrive at the TCWNN’s central claim.
When you are a woman it becomes complex to define the professional development you would like to achieve, since in some way the family, the traditions, and customs were preparing us mainly for family assistance tasks. In these times, we are experiencing a global paradigm shift that promotes abandoning that role for another, putting core beliefs in tension.
Globalisation allows people, organisations, and enterprises, among others, to act Global-Locally: GloCaL. Thinking globally but acting locally. This phenomenon is understood as an accelerated intensification of interactions between countries, but not only or primarily through the governments. It involves a process of transnationalisation of politics, where the actions are carried out by a transnational actor (states, companies, unions, non-governmental organisations, et cetera.). In this scenario, we have the best opportunity to magnify our impact; working within a network of like-minded visionaries and troubleshooters.
Professional Women: Achieving Boldness Through Alliances
In this context, being able to see yourself as an economically independent professional woman who can express her own thoughts, while at the same time strengthening the foundations of society by thinking in community, requires an effort that you must be willing to make – but also of a boldness that is achieved through alliances.
One thing that I observe recurrently in cities is that gender is not completely considered in the decision-making and budgeting of urban life. While there is a focus on empowering women through sharing the burden of care tasks that negatively impact women’s professional careers, we missed the opportunity to accelerate access to finance or fundings for women’s development and/or economic independence. It is something that leaders mention, but it is not connected to concrete actions. We need to think of women’s inclusion as a cross-cutting principle.
At Smartly we had the opportunity to organise the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTCs): Vibrant and Inclusive Urban Life (in Mexico and Ecuador), co-organise three Special UTCs COVID -19 edition, and also relaunch the Urban Journalist Academy (Buenos Aires and Mexico, 2019), among other activities.
Why Do We Need Female Professional Alliances?
I can point out that when women have a leadership position, most of the time we feel alone. It took us so much effort to get “there” that we forgot how to build partner-allies-fellow-comrades relationships. We are missing the opportunity of sharing female peer-to-peer advice in high-level decision-making processes, and this has an impact on our access to finance and to political power.
Women face challenges that are replicated regardless of the region, country, city, culture, or belief, and whose solutions are global, given that local problems are global.
Women 2030, a Smartly initiative, proposes a scheme of alliances between women to achieve sustainable career development. During the campuses, we emphasise the importance of Women Promoting Women. We are aware that the model of women supporting women that we propose is resisted by society, and also by the women themselves who are already in decision-making positions. For instance, it is a great challenge to generate and escalate alliances: while there is an intention to form them, the routines of many organisations and personal objectives make them a difficult matter to last.
With our allies, we could observe and analyse the real and effective possibilities that women have to access knowledge and power, to apply technology for personal and community development, and to generate alliances during and after these urban thinkers campuses. We will take a closer look at the analysis postulated so far in order to find out how far regional political systems (and the adherent social, economic, and environmental models) shape the realisation potential of our demands.
In the context of three global crises like climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the global security crisis that affects human life and impacts all communities, we need to look deeply into the preponderant role of the cities, and especially into partnerships (SDG17) as a key bridge to connect agendas. This is crucial if we are to accelerate inclusion and gender equality for the cities we need, the achievement of the SDGs, and the New Urban Agenda for good living.