Institutionalising Equality

Create a greater understanding of structures of power. Umeå, Sweden

SDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities

The Umeå Municipality has appointed a gender equality strategist, Linda Gustafsson, to operate at all levels, together with economists, analysts and development strategists in the planning office. The gender equality strategist was introduced in 1989 as the first of its kind in Sweden. Her focus is currently on urban planning issue.


Central to the strategists mission, is to analyse power relationships in decision-making process in general and power in relation to public space in particular, when focusing on urban planning issues.

Good practices & solutions

One method in urban planning is “the gendered landscape” where of city districts are analysed from a justice perspective on the basis of different groups’ perceptions and experiences of the space.

Equal opportunities is an important focal point for the municipality. The municipal council provides goals and directives, in the “Strategy for Work on Equal Opportunities”, where equality and an understanding of power is present throughout the planning process. 

The key is to create a greater understanding of structures of power, by focusing on people’s everyday lives, flows in the city, and feelings of entitlement. It is important that the municipality makes its position clear in the production phase, in order to create a city that is not segregated. 

Existing guidelines are central, such as the “Policy for Equal Housing” which states that residential areas should be densified with the type of housing that is not already to be found there.

Outcome & opportunities 
In the upcoming thematic master plan, for complementing central parts of Umeå city, social sustainability will be placed at the top of the agenda: What do different city districts look like? Who lives there and how do they live? What is the state of public spaces, communications and services? How may flows between the various city districts be created to support connections and meetings between people in the city? These questions provide good examples of how these issues are taken seriously and are seen as a central part in the municipal planning.

Lesson learned & opportunities

Applying a gender perspective on the urban planning creates a universal city that meets the needs of a majority of the population, if not the needs of everyone.

Related SDG targets 

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.

11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries.

Further reading


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Project: Nordic Urban Ways