Based on our research, here are five ways we can make cities safer for women.
1. Don’t just invest in lighting and surveillance
The women we surveyed recognised that young people have a right to use public places, but they also said antisocial behaviour from young men, particularly in groups, created significant apprehension, fear and avoidance of places, especially at night.
One participant told us:
I think it’s mainly that drug-affected type of people. And they hang around in a bunch. And people who are affected by alcohol […] they’ll be boisterous.
While CCTV can reduce property crime, it does not appear effective in addressing women’s safety or for preventing violence and assault.
2. Consider the role of technology
Women are keen to see digital interventions across both day and night-time.
3. Design spaces with women, for women
Women have been denied a say in their own communities for too long.
Most often a co-design workshop will include high-level decision-makers, planners, designers and various user groups.
If done from the outset, co-design ensures the lived experiences of community members and with the issues faced by communities are factored in.
It’s also an inclusive, collaborative and creative method.
One of our survey participants said:
My favourite experience in the workshop was just being able to meet all the different women who I probably wouldn’t have met without the workshop. I think just having a space like – creating a space like that is one of the first steps so that women can gather and meet.
4. Use ‘walking interviews’
A walking interview, as opposed to a regular sit-down interview or focus group, can help communities understand what makes women feel safe.
This helps us develop an understanding not only of the physical nature of public places evoking concern, but also of the ways in which different women, and indeed different user groups, engage with each other in a physical place.
The development of place-based strategies – collaborative design to help build a sense of place – can encourage inclusion and safety for women from different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, life stages and abilities.
By accompanying women on foot and discussing specific locations, we get a holistic understanding about how women move through these public places, or avoid them, and why.
5. Survey the right people, with the right questions
Understanding the way women perceive their communities is key to creating safer spaces.
Community safety surveys are particularly useful for understanding the prevalence of attitudes, sentiments and feelings at one point in time. They can then be repeated each year to track changes over time.
If designed well, community safety surveys can be an effective tool to understand perceptions and experiences of safety and inclusion for women from all backgrounds.
But the survey must be diverse and inclusive.
By figuring out the best ways to engage with women in the research process, we can then empower councils and other community organisations to do the same.
In the past couple of weeks we have had more than 400 registrations at the launch and more than 1000 downloads of the toolkits from across urban, regional and rural councils in Australia, North America, the United Kingdom, Italy and New Zealand.
To make our cities safer, we just have to listen to them.
- ^ concerns about their safety (research-repository.griffith.edu.au)
- ^ often experience harassment (www.standup-international.com)
- ^ More lighting alone does not create safer cities. Look at what research with young women tells us (theconversation.com)
- ^ behaviour of men (theconversation.com)
- ^ emerging studies (theconversation.com)
- ^ more harm than good (theconversation.com)
- ^ Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com)
- ^ further exclude some members of the communtiy (theconversation.com)
- ^ studies suggest (www.monash.edu)
- ^ real-time information for public transport (theconversation.com)
- ^ wayfinding (wayfoundvictoria.vic.gov.au)
- ^ combined in public placemaking (www.bloomberg.com)
- ^ We should create cities for slowing down (theconversation.com)
- ^ co-design workshop (www.monash.edu)
- ^ Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com)
- ^ place-based strategies (theconversation.com)
- ^ There's $1.3 billion for women's safety in the budget and it's nowhere near enough (theconversation.com)
- ^ Safe Spaces Project (www.monash.edu)
- ^ toolkits (research-repository.griffith.edu.au)
- ^ This research (research-repository.griffith.edu.au)