Plan International and UN-Habitat, Hanoi, Vietnam
In the Block by Block initiative, UN-Habitat uses Mojang’s popular computer game Minecraft to involve citizens, especially young people, in the design and creation of public spaces. In cooperation with Plan International’s initiative Because I’m a Girl, a programme tackling negative social norms and attitudes around gender to achieve equality for girls, they started a project based in Kim Chung, in the outskirts of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.
Around 500 girls between the ages of 13-16, all from Kim Chung, were invited to play Mine-craft, in order to visualise their ideas of a safer city. Before the girls started playing, they did a walk around the area to identify safety issues in the ambient environment. During the walk, the girls identified a range of dangers in their community. For ex-amples, an unlit dark tunnel, a canal that had no barriers and sewers without any co-vers. When they walked past restaurant they often got confronted by men and boys shouting mean and offensive things.
Good practice & solutions
Analysing the girls’ Minecraft models, their creative designs included simple and cru-cial aspects of a safe environment. Some of the proposals included installing street lights, road signs, bins and fences, free emergency phones, a café for women and girls and shelters for women, girls and homeless people. They also included ideas of mak-ing the public space more enjoyable and beautiful by proposing more flowers, plants, benches, sports fields and tree houses.
Outcome & opportunities
The girls presented their designs to influential people representing different branches of the local government. The city government publicly committed to implement some of the suggestions made by the girls, including installing more street lights and build-ing a fence around a deep canal that runs through the city.
Lessons learned & recommendations
The aim of the project was to develop a methodology that can be used to help girls and young women access the planning process and improve their urban safety. Working together in groups with a computer game made the girls very calm and creative. It created an atmosphere for the girls, who otherwise are rarely listened to, to express themselves in a new way. Hence, Minecraft is a great tool for involving people in ur-ban design processes, especially people with little to no education as it does not in-volve reading text, maps or plans. Additionally, speaking about a city and how it may change to the better is difficult. With Minecraft, everyone can become urban designers with a minimal input and education. Additionally, throughout the project, the confidence among the girls increased. The girls got impressed by their own ability. In the project, they were able to change and make a difference in questions of architecture and urban planning, something they before thought were only for boys and men.
Related SDG targets
- 4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
- 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.b Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
- 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium- sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
- 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
- 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
- 16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision- making at all levels
- 17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships
- Block by block
- Because I’m a Girl
- Urban Girls Movement
- United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
- Engage for the SDGs
- Gender Responsive Urban Planning and Design, UN-Habitat
- Global Public Space Toolkit, UN-Habitat
Photo: © Katla Studios/Mojang
Project: Urban Girls Movement