“Plan a city for girls, and it will work for everyone” global movement

Global Utmaning, Stockholm, Sweden

SDG 3: Good health and well-beingSDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
#UrbanGirlsMovement is an initiative by the independent Swedish think tank Global Utmaning, mapping good examples, stories, and lessons learned from multi-stakeholders globally. It highlights ongoing initiatives, implementing the SDGs at the local level. In collaboration with a range of multi-stakeholders, the purpose is to highlight global pro-poor urban development initiatives targeting girls and young women in low-income areas in rapidly urbanizing cities, as well as to develop methods for local and urban development that can be applicable globally. In the long-run #UrbanGirlsMovement aims to contribute to improving the living conditions for girls and young women in vulnerable urban areas through highlighting participatory design and public space planning; promoting public health, sanitation, access to education and employment, and security.



#UrbanGirlsMovement  was initiated with the  belief that “if we plan a  city for girls, it will work for everyone”. Three quarters of the world’s poorest people live in lower middle-income countries, often without social security or adequate living conditions. Poverty and vulnerability is increasing within many countries as a result of unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, oppression and social exclusion, particularly affects girls and young women. As the world is predominantly urban, poverty is also becoming an increasingly urban phenomenon. More than 1 billion people live in low-income informal settlements, and inequalities are increasing the fastest in cities.

In order to fulfil the SDGs, the interlinkages and integrated nature of the goals and targets are crucial. In the first global mapping of good examples, the main challenges raised by young women globally were; the lack of safe places, gender-based violence, access to education, sex education, adult interactions and role models, and environmental risks. Therefore, addressing specifically SDG 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, SDG 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and SDG 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable in an integrated manner is the most  effective tool to tackle the challenges and reach the 2030 Agenda.


Good practices & solutions

All projects included in the global mapping of good examples and lessons learned focus on improving the living conditions for girls and young women in low-income areas in rapidly urbanizing cities, through participatory design and public space planning. Girls and young women are key stakeholders, hence we have  gained unique insights into some of the specific challenges they face, and how inextricably linked girl’s’ development are to a range of development issues.


The participatory design and public space planning highlight the target groups’ needs and establishes priorities in the planning of physical spaces, social and economic programs. The activities empower girls and young women by  improving their living conditions through targeted interventions related to public health, sanitation, education, employment and security. They demonstrate how participatory design and public space planning is crucial as steppingstones for youth to improve their chances of a fruitful life, and at the same time addressing several SDGs.


Outcome & opportunities

Prioritising girls and young women in low-income areas in rapidly urbanizing cities is not only  vital for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, but also other global agendas. The project has successfully mapped global good examples that make a difference; empowering girls and young women and improving their lives, with the purpose for  others to learn, be inspired, and  to scale up the work in another context. In line with implementing the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda, the project has directly or indirectly shown the local application of particularly SDG 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 16 and 17.


The initiative also contributes to the development of  new methods for local urban development and planning that promote safe and productive public spaces, and that can be applicable in a  Swedish low-income areas, and as well as informal urban settlements globally. The ultimate goal  is to propose new urban development methods for feminist urban planning to local municipal leaders and actors that serve the local implementation of the SDGs. This provides an opportunity for #UrbanGirlsMovement to provide policy recommendations to the Swedish Government on how to  turn a ‘Feminist Foreign Policy’ into practice and to identify new priorities for Swedish development cooperation, targeting girls and young women in vulnerable urban areas.

Lessons learned & recommendations

By mapping the local work of our partnering organisations, we have managed to strengthen our belief  “ plan a city for girls, it will work for everyone”. A city for everyone is  sustainable city, where both girls and boys can thrive and develop. But to get there we need to include everyone in the process. Many initiatives do not particularly target girls and young women, but it has been noticed they tend to, in a greater extent than men, take advantage of the opportunities provided. Women also often tend to carefully safeguard the longevity of the project or infrastructure put in place.


So, how should a city be planned in order to benefit the most vulnerable populations? Finding solutions that have a positive impact on making cities more inclusive and equal should be a top priority. To summarise, a city is  balanced when there is space for all people to live, work, and play in equal measure. Public space that do meet up to the needs of girls and young women are characterised by:



Related SDG targets


Further reading
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Project: Urban Girls Movement