Women Transforming Cities International Society sent a delegation of four Board members to the UN Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador. As part of the Canadian delegation we joined over 35,000 other delegates from around the world.
We had been part of an international coalition of women working to engender the “New Urban Agenda” which was the final outcome document of UN Habitat III, and is now the blueprint on urbanism for the next twenty years. We spent the last year and a half trying to show how using an intersectional lens with disaggregated data on policies, programmes, budgets, funding, staffing and governance was critical to the entire document. This included Ellen Woodsworth, chair, speaking on a panel about social cohesion, and presenting on behalf of the international coalition at the final plenary session, at the Habitat III EU/North American Regional Pre Conference in Prague, earlier in the year.
We went to Quito to share our learnings from over 30 neighbourhood dialogue “Cafes” some of which were part of the Urban Thinkers Campus, a component of the Habitat sponsored World Urban Campaign (WUC). We also shared with the international community, “Advancing Equity and Inclusion: a Guide for Municipalities” a publication which we partnered on, and which we submitted to the World Urban Campaign of UN Habitat as a “New Urban Solution”. This was the only submission accepted from Canada. We also took our work on the “Queer Declaration” to YoutHab and other venues. We would like to thank the many people who shared their recommendations at our Cafes, online and at meetings.
Here are some details of our activities at the UN Habitat III conference in Quito:
Our official delegate to the three day Huairou
Commission Grassroots Women’s Academy held in the week before the conference was Christine O’Fallon. She presented on a panel articulating some of the priorities of women and girls from North America. The Academy travelled to Ayora, Cayambe; met with indigenous women leaders; toured small-holding rural and urban organic farming operations; learned about challenges and solutions experienced by women and their networks in the region; affirmed the value of cooperative, collective action. As well Christine spoke on an Ecuadorean press conference panel, along with the (first indigenous) Mayor of Ayora, and international grassroots women leaders. She worked on a comprehensive grassroots women leaders’ response to the New Urban Agenda and crafted concrete implementation recommendations which were presented in detail at the UN Habitat Women’s Assembly.
The three day YoutHabitat conference was also held just before the main UN Habitat conference. Ellen Woodsworth and Joy Masuhara spoke on the YoutHab panel on LGBTI rights and the Queer Declaration, a document crafted collaboratively by LGBTI organizations in Vancouver, Canada and were joined by theVancouver Qmunity Youth Outreach worker Cicely-Belle Bain, as well as a local Ecuadorean queer youth activist Danilo Manzano. We were able to give Dr. Joan Clos (Executive Director of UN Habitat III) the Queer Declaration and ask for his support.
We also worked with the Canadian government to set up a panel for the main conference, discussing how to include LGBTI issues in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda despite no specific wording. The panel speakers were Jean Duclos head of the Canadian delegation and Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Julian Castro US Secretary of Housing, a minister from Mexico, the Mayor of Oakland, California and two LGBTI activists from Quito. See Change.org Queer Declaration.
At the main conference members of the Board spoke on a number of panels such as the World Urban Campaign Urban Thinkers Campuses “Where to Go from Here”. WTC launched the Women Friendly Cities Challenge with Seoul Foundation of Women and Family and Women in Cities International (WICI), moderated by the Huairou Commission. This initiative was very well received by an over-capacity crowd of over 100. There is excellent momentum and support to move the Challenge forward.
There were actually three conferences: the official UN Habitat III conference, the Alternative Conference and the Resistance Conference. We wanted to attend all three but only our WTC delegate Joya Perrick understands Spanish so she attended some of the non-official sessions on behalf of WTC. We all got to participate in creating a mural dedicated to women running a large local market, which was a community event sponsored by YoutHab.
Between the four of us we participated in many sessions of the hundreds possible such as the Women’s Assembly; Women’s Roundtable; Indigenous Roundtable; UNESCO hosted event: Sharing good practices in promoting urban inclusion and non-discrimination; Women and the Cities, from theory to practice; Inclusive cities for sexual diversity; Localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s); Experiences with Technologies and Data Gathering for Women’s empowerment; Aging in the Cities; Safe Cities. We also viewed the exhibit hall and UN pavilion, and collected information at these venues. Women globally are very concerned regarding the need to call for disaggregated data at all levels of government, and they shared the many tools that are available.
We gave interviews to UN Radio, Ecuador TV, the Guardian, Reuters and even appeared on the front page of the Ecuadorian newspaper.
At the Canadian Delegate Debriefing session we called on the government to put an intersectional lens with disaggregated data on their work to implement the New Urban Agenda with the inclusion of LGBTI issues. UN Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos spoke at the closing of the Grassroots Women’s Academy and at the end of the Habitat III conference, acknowledging the vital contributions of grassroots women to the social, economic, political well-being, and health of communities and the crucial role women and girls play in the work to achieve sustainable development goals.
Some more of the key messages from attending various sessions were:
1. Need for disaggregated data. Need local as well as regional and national data, as larger data pools can be misleading and not appropriate at the local level.
2. Need local capacity to turn data into action.
3. Partnerships of all types are important, and should include various levels of government, as well as academia, civil society and the private sector .
4. Integration of academia as a partner can be very beneficial in guiding data collection, providing validity to data and insertion of an evidence base for change.
5. Connection of bottom-up and top down data, resources, etc.
6. Many innovative and new technologies are assisting in community data collection.
7. Collection of data by community members can be an entry point for engagement, capacity building, empowerment.
8. Social inclusion needs policy and action, and reaching out to support organization and participation by communities that historically have been excluded and may not engage readily.
It was an incredible and inspiring experience for us all and we want to thank all the Fundrazr donors and other people that made it possible for Women Transforming Cities to participate. Special thanks to Joya Perrick and the fundraising committee for managing the fundraising campaign.