Designing Cities to Make Them Safer for Women

Beria-RBrown
Photo Credit: Raven E. Brown
By Raven E. Brown
[18 January  2016] – While pursuing a graduate degree at the New School, I participated in the International Field Programme offered by the Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs in Johannesburg, South Africa. During my stay, a woman was raped on the street outside of my student accommodations. As a woman and native New Yorker who is accustomed to being aware of my surroundings, it was easy to see how the area posed multiple risks.
The dorms were located in an isolated area of Beria, a once-affluent, lower-income neighbourhood on the outskirts of Johannesburg’s Central Business District that is checkered with vacant commercial and residential spaces. Because of the high crime rate, many residents secure their homes with walls, barbed wired and electrical fencing, and few businesses are open after dark.
In short, there were no “eyes on the street” in Beria, to use the phrase coined by Jane Jacobs in her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities. There were no community members watching their street, pedestrians in the process of commuting, or local businesses – all of the factors that together create a system of social surveillance that makes violence less likely to occur, especially against women.
Combined with the high prevalence of gender-based violence in the public sphere that South Africa experiences – according to the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, continue reading on Cities Alliances website
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