Cities represent the level of government closest to citizens. Citiesâ€™ policies, services, infrastructures, have clear consequences in our daily lives. In democratic countries, it is supposed that decision-makers truly represent the interest and experiences of multiple groups. However, this does not happen when there is not a fair representation of women and men from different ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities and sexualities, who all bring valuable real-life experiences to local politics.
Public spaces are where the public life of the city is played out and civic identity is defined. In its report on Gender Inclusive Cities, the URBACT Knowledge Hub states that 'a city that is attractive and accessible to everyone offers better quality of life for residents, visitors and conditions for long-term economic growth. Evidence shows that women and men exhibit different behaviors in public space, based on gender norms (...) and urban planning, design, and place-making have gender perspectives and a cityâ€™s physical structure can either reflect and amplify existing societal inequalities or conversely create more equal environments'.
Young people show an interest in politics and are socially active, however, they are not interested in traditional forms of participation (EC, Youth Participation Strategy). Participatory approaches should be used to encourage young people to become active citizens, agents of solidarity and positive change for communities across Europe, inspired by EU values and a European identity.
Giving participatory models of policy-making and an engaging way to mobilize, young people do take action. Adding the use of social media and other virtual world activities while promoting critical thinking and media literacy and there is a recipe for success.
The MAAT project tackles a serious issue in our societies, that prevent more than half of the population living in cities and in peripheral neighborhoods to live fully balanced, just and fair lives. When women experience cities differently from men (mainly due to their traditional roles caring for children, elderly relatives and the sick), by using child care, health infrastructures and schools more than men do, by spending more time on public transport to this facilities, by making more stops in the commute from work to home, by being the primary targets of sexual assaults on public transport and streets since a very young age, and adding to all this the layers of discrimination that are added by belonging to other discriminated groups (suffering also from sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia, xenophobia, age discrimination, etc) it is evident that a XXI society should work to extinguish, or at least diminishes, this issues.
Young people are the next decision makers. The future belong to them. They should realize the power they hold, and use it to the benefit of all, to foster thriving societies that are safe and fair.