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close this bookWomen in Human Settlements Development - Getting the Issues Right (HABITAT, 1995, 60 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentForeword
View the documentWhy Focus on Women?
View the documentSome Basic Definitions
View the documentFact Sheet
View the documentPlanning and Management: By and for Whom?
View the documentHousing Policy: Starting Right
View the documentTowards a Safer Environment
View the documentA Place of Her Own: Women and Land
View the documentDesigning Housing to Meet the Needs of All
View the documentWomen and Finance
View the documentNetworking: Sharing Knowledge and Experiences
View the documentInformation: Equal Access, Equal Control
View the documentPolicy Proposals
View the documentSome Questions for Discussion
View the documentSelect Bibliography

Planning and Management: By and for Whom?

What is planning and management?

Human settlements planning follows a number of stages: the identification of needs, the formulation of goals and objectives, mobilization of resources needed (land, finance and personnel), implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Human settlements management is the operation, or running, and maintenance of the existing shelter, infrastructure, social services, and the overall organization and sustaining of villages, towns and cities. Therefore, planning and management in shelter development, involves the provision, operation and maintenance of housing and related infrastructure and services, such as water, sanitation, refuse collection, transport, household energy, health centres, schools and shopping facilities; and even more importantly, building and consolidating communities.

Planning is for people, and building communities is central to good human settlements planning.

Planning for whom?

A very basic assumption in human settlements planning is that it is for people. In other words, housing, water, health facilities and such other services are provided for the use of a given population. Therefore, people should participate in the planning and management of such services, to ensure that they are suitable to their needs; and to help communities feel responsible for managing and maintaining these services.

Gender-aware planning is not planning for women, but for the whole community, including women.

In the last decade, much has been said and written about people’s participation in development. However, for a long time the participation of the people was often realized only at the project-execution level, and never at the planning or design stages. Indeed people became more and more “involved” as governments became less capable of providing for all the people’s needs. Thus at the project-execution level, people were involved in providing labour and in making some other cash or kind contribution.

In the last few years, the failure of many urban local authorities to cope with providing services has resulted in communities, especially women, becoming organized to manage services, in particular water, health and day-care. One line of graffiti from a Latin American city expresses the burden of communities in managing services. It reads: “Participation? Don’t tell me about my people’s participation, I want to know what is the government’s participation”.

What then can be done to involve people in planning and in higher-level management? Who does the planning and for whom?

Gender-aware planning and management means taking into account the needs and situations of all members of any given society: men, women, boys and girls. It also means the effective participation of all, or at least the fair representation of all in the planning process.

Women have for a long time been involved in the management of communities. Indeed this often constitutes a burden for them. However, they have been largely excluded from higher levels of planning, decision-making and management. This is due to many factors, particularly cultural attitudes, and lack of appropriate education, the two often being related. Neglect of women’s needs can also be attributed to a general lack of awareness and concern as well as an absence of meaningful data and statistics, which are an essential basis for good planning.

What are the results of planning without women?

The most obvious ill-effects of planning without consideration for, and participation of women are most easily seen in towns and cities. Examples include: the absence of day-care facilities; the inappropriate location of public water points (in poor communities), children’s play parks, inadequate lighting of streets and public areas; and “modern” house designs that do not take into consideration women’s traditional use of space. These are all areas that affect everybody, and women in particular. They are often inadequately addressed, leading to inconvenience and even risk, especially for women and children.

If a neighbourhood is not good enough for women, it is not good enough for the family. Similarly, a town, a city...

Planning laws that prohibit economic activities and food-growing in residential areas, render women’s survival strategies illegal, and are one more example of planning that excludes women.

How can the situation be improved?

Women’s needs, along with those of everybody else, can only be adequately met if women and men participate equally in human settlements planning and management at community, local and national levels. For this to happen, several issues need to be addressed.

Women’s education

World figures for women’s illiteracy, higher education and enrolment in scientific and technical courses reveal that women are lagging far behind men. As a result, there are few women engineers, architects, planners and bank managers. These are all areas related to human settlements planning, development and management. One reason why women do not enrol in education in these fields is the traditional perception of what jobs are suited to women and men, respectively.

Women cannot participate meaningfully in planning unless they have the right education, training and skills.

One woman in the United Republic of Tanzania tells the story of how, several years ago, she turned up at the university as a student of engineering. She was shocked to find that no bathroom or toilet facilities were provided for women. Obviously nobody expected a woman to turn up! Similarly, in Uganda, most government technical training institutes, which are residential, have no boarding facilities for women.

More democratic participation of women

The participation of women in settlements development needs to move forward from community management to higher levels. Although community-based activities help to give women the experience to move to “bigger and better things”, very often even people’s organizations are not democratic enough and do not give women the opportunity to participate as leaders.

In many urban popular movements, it is common for women to be heavily involved in the day-to-day work of providing for basic needs. However, it is the men who take the decisions, negotiate with local authorities and manage the finances. Fortunately there are some NGOs who are trying to reverse this trend and to ensure that community-based organizations can become a starting point for building women’s capacities and confidence, to enable them to participate in planning and management.

SPARC, an NGO that works with pavement dwellers in Bombay, India, has been developing a methodology for ensuring that community intervention provides a clearly defined space for the democratic participation of women, in the organizations of slum dwellers, at various levels. This has helped to bring about some change in the attitudes of men in the organizations; and in the women’s perception of themselves; thereby increasing the women’s capacity to take some responsibility for planning and managing their settlements.

Participation of women in political life is also crucial. More women are needed in local and national governments. This can only come about with more education of women, as well as building awareness among both men and women.

Decentralized planning is more likely to involve the people, and therefore more women. Yet even with decentralization, a conscious effort has to be made to ensure that women are involved at levels that can help to bring about change.

Towards more gender-sensitive statistics

The 1993 Human Development Report of UNDP describes women as the “non-participating” majority. Indeed women’s contribution in many areas of development has often, been described as “invisible”. Even countries with a high HDI and high literacy and employment figures do not look so good when their vital statistics are disaggregated by gender. In other words, the position of women in most societies, even in the more developed countries, is one of relative disadvantage. Therefore, data are needed not just on levels of education, but male and female levels of education; male and female human settlements professionals; male and female community leaders and politicians; and so on.

Participatory research is one way of ensuring that data are gender-sensitive.

One way of ensuring that meaningful data are collected is through participatory research, that involves the people who are likely to be affected by development programmes. The Women in Human Settlements Development Programme of UNCHS (Habitat) are in the process of developing a set of indicators to measure the participation of women in human settlements development. The methodology includes conducting the research using professional, NGO and grassroots women in each of the communities surveyed. The results so far have been very interesting. The next step could be to promote the use of the research findings in local and national planning in the respective countries.

Education for policy - makers and planners

Gender-sensitization seminars for policy-makers and development workers, both men and women, are now on the curricula of some university departments. Workshops are also being conducted or sponsored by some international development agencies. The Women in Human Settlements Development Programme is facilitating gender-awareness workshops at national and regional levels. This should be replicated more at the national level.

It is hoped that soon a qualification in this area will become a requirement for jobs in local, national and international policy and planning.

National and international policy makers should be required to be gender-competent.


Women learning skilled construction work traditionally done by men.