According to the United Nations, nearly 1 in 3 women have experienced abuse in their lifetime. The numbers rise in conflicts or crises, whether health or humanitarian. Violence against women significantly affects their physical and mental integrity, but it’s rarely identified and dealt with.
In the long run, Eurocities brings a gender perspective when working with cities and, more precisely, influences EU policy development on gender by collecting and sending substantial local evidence to European institutions through the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation.
Last September, the network of cities issued a social trend paper demonstrating that cities place gender equality at the core of municipal strategies and action plans. Municipalities are crucial in raising public awareness of gender inequalities and domestic violence and supporting and protecting victims.
Concretely, the political campaign inclusivecities4all collects examples of local governments’ commitments to social issues, such as mitigating the impact of gender-based violence. When Bologna, Nantes, Ljubljana, Madrid, Vienna and Gijon pledged to principle 2 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, on gender equality, they outlined their actions to tackle violence against women.
Safer public spaces
The city of Ljubljana defines violence against women in its pledge: “Violence is a violation of fundamental human rights, freedoms and dignity, and represents a severe physical and psychological breach of a person’s integrity.”
That breach happens in private and public spheres, such as streets and transport modes. Gender inequality and gender-based violence are widespread phenomena, even in safe cities.
To ensure women’s safety in urban spaces, Gijon maintains activated the protocol “Lila Point,” a service that assists young victims of gender violence on the spot in leisure activities and sets up anti-attack bus stops. Nantes also works on safety in public transport by introducing evening request stops to make women feel safer.
Support, support and support
Madrid extends its support to the municipal network for victims of intimate partner violence and to the one for victims of sex trafficking and other prostitution-related human rights abuses. The proof is the ‘Pact for eradicating violence against women,’ which aims to prevent and raise awareness, detect violent cases and assist the victim, boost the socioeconomic independence of victims and coordinate with other governments, all through 21 concrete measures.
The city also created a 24-hour crisis centre for the care of victims of sexual violence and increased the resources for victims and their children and the number of professionals involved in the process of social, psychological, legal and educational recovery.
With the same aim, Nantes leads awareness-building sessions for agents who may be in contact with women or children victims of violence, such as health workers or teachers. The city also finances associations in the field and participates in the telephone remote protection system for women at high risk of violence.
Ljubljana has also experience in co-financing programmes through public tenders aimed at women and children victims of violence with informing, counselling, providing a crisis centre and safe houses, etc.
Make sure victims have a roof over their head
In Nantes, 12,000 women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence every year, and 550 children are co-victims. To tackle these numbers, local actors, who already assist victims in the acute phase or provide shelter for women victims of violence, stressed the need to open a dedicated space born in 2019. The French city invested €1 million to open the Post-trauma Consultation Centre to complement existing support services.
The centre aims to rapidly refer women victims of violence to qualified professionals and immediately assist in an attack; offer a space for listening and helping victims work out a long-term plan for rebuilding their life, including medical-psychological counselling, and assist children who are collateral victims of domestic violence.
Similarly, Vienna built the fifth shelter with room for 50 women and their children that experience domestic violence. Advice centres such as the 24-Hour Women’s Emergency Helpline of the City of Vienna provide women with help and support in emergencies.
Along with the regional government, Gijon manages the Integral Care Centre for Women Victims of Gender Violence and the Advice Centre for women, where lawyers offer support with particular attention to gender violence situations. Since 2015, Bologna launched a three levels reception system for women who suffer violence: hospitality in prompt reception, hospitality in second reception free of charge by the Metropolitan City, and counselling, listening and support.
Reshaping gender roles and masculinity as a way of prevention
Whereas tackling gender violence is important, preventing this behaviour is crucial. Cities also work on campaigns preventively. Madrid supports the network of 17 gender equality spaces to prevent, detect and raise awareness about violence against women. Ljubljana also actively participate in awareness-raising campaigns. The municipality will launch short films about stalking on social media this year.
Regarding the education framework, Gijon boosts different actions to improve education in values and equality through activities to prevent gender violence and break off the stereotypes and gender roles that conditioned the children’s personal, academic, and professional development.
Vienna also provides an education box for pedagogues with gender-sensitive teaching materials such as literature, games and empowerment tools for girls and boys in pre-primary.
Additionally, Madrid focuses on education through the campaign “Madrid zero violence” and in public spaces with the project “Madrid, a safe city.” The project gathers data on the different types of violence against women in the city, liaises with civil society and experts to promote analysis on the topic, contribute to gender mainstream in public spaces and searches for inspiration from other local, regional and national governments.
Bologna also supported the creation of the “Centre without violence” to offer men who use violence against partners consultancy to boost a greater awareness of the consequences of these behaviours on women and children. Likewise, Ljubljana delivers non-violent communication programmes for perpetrators of violence. Nantes also works on prevention by targeting aggressors through boosting campaigns to combat massive youth drinking.
A new life
After suffering from violence, reinserting women into the labour market is essential for their economic independence and psychological well-being. For that reason, Gijon liaises with specialised associations that work on victims’ social integration and employability for their empowerment.
In conclusion, local governments work on all stages of this type of violence, with an increasing focus on prevention. Eurocities calls on the EU to build the capacity of cities to collect data on gender violence based on standard methodologies. Only when all levels of government combat violence against women together can change be made.
This article is part of a series on how cities tackle gender-based violence and eliminate violence against women in Europe to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of activism until human rights day on 10 December. Previous articles in this series include: