The gender equality strategist

Umeå Municipality, Sweden

SDG 1: No povertySDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 16: Peace justice and strong institutionsSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
Umeå is one of Sweden’s fastest growing cities. The average age of the nearly 123 000 people who live in Umeå is 38 years old. For the city, the rapid urbanisation is seen as an asset and the goal is to reach 200 000 inhabitants before 2050. Umeå was the first Swedish municipality to appoint a gender equality strategist, perhaps even the first city in the world to do so.

Many Nordic cities are experiencing growing challenges, such as health and housing. Spatial and social segregation is increasing in many cities and is becoming an alarming problem in larger cities. Ethnic segregation is increasing in pace with the continuous widening of socio- economic gaps, primarily amongst low income groups (unlike high income groups where ethnic segregation is actually declining). There is therefore an urging need of public spaces serving as public meeting places with a potential to bridge social and spatial segregation in society. This puts pressure on planning with reference to prioritising accessible public space.

Good practices & solutions

With this background, Umeå Municipality has appointed a gender equality strategist, to operate at all levels, together with economists, analysts and development strategists in the planning office. Focus is currently on urban planning issues. A central task for the gender equality strategist is to analyse how power relations influence decision- making processes in general and public space in particular. One method the city uses in urban planning to target these questions is called “the gendered landscape”, where transformation of city districts is analysed from a human rights perspective on the basis of different groups’perceptions and experiences of a public place. Central to the work on equal opportunities in the municipality has been the development of the Strategy for Work on Equal Opportunities. The municipal council provides goals and directives, where equality and an improved understanding of power relations create coherence throughout the planning process.

Outcome & opportunities

Placing social sustainability and gender equality at the top of the agenda on a regional level is key to create a city for all on a local level. Following questions are always asked throughout planning processes to make sure that gender and power issues are a central part in the municipal planning: What do different city districts look like? Who lives there? How do they live? What is the status of public spaces, communications and services? How may flows between city districts be created to support connections and meetings between people in the city?

Lessons learned & recommendations

Success factors for Umeå to institutionalise gender equality has particularly been to learn from statistics and evidence-based knowledge and dare to move away from“business as usual”. Another lesson learned that can be duplicated elsewhere is
the ability to see diversity as a strength, build on existing human capital, providing inclusive meeting places and understand how public space can be a tool to realise the‘right to the city’for everyone.

Related SDG targets
  • 1.4 By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance
  • 1.7 Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions
  • 5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • 5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  • 5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • 5.c Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
  • 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
  • 10.3 Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard
  • 11.1 By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums
  • 11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries
  • 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
  • 11.a Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning
  • 16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision- making at all levels
  • 17.16 Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries
 Further reading

Photo: © Umeå Kommun

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Project: Urban Girls Movement