Feminist town planning in local councils is the way forward for a progressive Scotland - Hannah Brown

Women and their needs should no longer be tacked onto policies during a necessary, but under-developed tick box exercise.

Monday, 23rd May 2022, 4:55 am

As this month saw new and old councillors elected across Scotland, attention is now focused on whether or not we will see change in how our councils are run.

A part of this attention will be on if we can expect a change in the approach to women’s needs as we see more female councillors elected.

The number of women elected to councils after the elections represents 35 per cent of all councillors – a 6 per cent increase since 2017.

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Women feeling unsafe as they walk home alone in the dark is one issue YWCA Scotland's report focuses in on.

Despite still not being good enough to ensure equal representation, the increase gives us hope that maybe our councils will begin to take women’s needs more seriously.

Before the elections, I contacted around 20 councils in Scotland, asking if they would look into plans proposed by a YWCA Scotland report on feminist town planning.

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Feminist town planning is the approach of reconsidering town infrastructures with women's safety and mobility at the heart of plans.

The majority of councils got back to me, stating women’s safety was fundamental and something they took very seriously.

Yet, when asked to pinpoint solutions which make women feel safer and more welcome in their environments, most solutions were fragmentary and spaced out as footnotes in various policies.

This is the problem – women, our safety and our needs are generally still considered ‘hidden footnotes’ in the eyes of town planning and society in general.

Talking to organisations such as YWCA, Engender and Women 50:50, they fully encourage drawing up a full feminist town plan for each council that puts women at the heart of decision-making.

Scotland can also learn so much from international examples of successful feminist town planning.

Over 30 years ago, the suburb of Aspern in Vienna adopted the needs of women into their infrastructure and ‘gender mainstreaming’ planning.

The area widened pathways for prams and wheelchairs, put in additional benches for socialising and increased lighting to reduce anxiety in streets.

This area has since been named the city with the highest quality of life in the world every year from 2009-19.

Taking on such plans in Scotland would be a sign our councils are changing for the better and women’s needs are being heard and acted on.