A TOWNSHIP DESIGNED BY AND FOR WOMEN

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Women-Work-City is a project made for and by women in Vienna, Austria. The project grew out of the realization that urban planning must incorporate equal opportunities for both men and women. Women-Work-City is a living complex designed with the needs of women in mind. If we were to look around us, most urban planning is not women friendly. Acknowledging the gender disparities that exist, the planners for the Women-Work-City decided to take full note of all the needs of women and their actions and create a city which meets the everyday needs of women.

In 1999, city planners in Vienna conducted a survey to know how residents use public transportation, and found clear cut gender divides in how people spent their time and therefore how they used the city transportation.The majority of men reported using either a car or a public transit twice a day to go to work in the morning and come home at night. But women on the other hand, used the city’s network of sidewalks, bus routes, subway lines and streetcars more frequently and for numerous reasons. One big reason women frequently use transportation services is because they handle the majority of domestic responsibilities.

Urban Planners started the long process of reorganizing infrastructure to ease intra-neighborhood running around, instead of just focusing on commute based transportation. That means wider sidewalks and more ramps for pedestrians, pushing carts and strollers, closer schools and drugstore and more courtyards where children can run around while you run errands.

The study which took place from 1996 to 1997 showed that after the age of nine, the number of girls in public parks dropped off dramatically, while the number of boy sheld steady. Researchers found that girls were less assertive than boys. If boys and girls were up in competition for park space the boys were most likely to win out. The planners responded by redesigning two parks to create more discreet sections, instead of simply wide open spaces. The plan worked and girls immediately started using the parks more.

There is a lot of talk about our educational system and work environment which make it difficult for women to endure in male dominating world. But what the Vienna situation shows is that even things like sidewalk and pharmacy location are holding women back and it can be fixed with better urban planning.

Vienna city planners took innovative steps to improve city infrastructure, keeping needs of women in mind. What’s even more impressive about the Austrian experiment in city planning is that the information was actually applied to infrastructure.

Public parks were improved to encourage more use among girls, street lighting was improved, sidewalks widened and even housing benefited.Another project was to make parks more accessible to girls, by simply adding footpaths, landscaping to divide open areas into semi-enclosed pockets where different groups could use the park without conflict.

The project Women-Work-City has strengthened the conditions of women physically and psychologically as well in the city by providing them a friendly environment.