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Closing Africa’s Infrastructure Deficit: The Role of Gender Responsiveness in Urban Planning

Authors: K. Buyana, S. Lwasa, L. Schiebinger


Although urbanization in Africa has been characterized by fragile socio-economic successes, the sustainability of city infrastructure is now central to planning processes as a pathway to closing the deficit in terms of coverage and access. This paper builds on survey and interview data from Kampala city, to demonstrate how the principle gender responsiveness can inform improvements in urban infrastructure and service delivery. We discovered that women prefer infrastructure that combines living and working spaces for reduced labour and travel burdens between homes, markets, schools, and other urban spaces. Men’s conception of infrastructure needs on the other hand, mirrored public security and connectivity concerns along city streets and work places. However, the urban planning approach at city-level is guided by mainstream engineering and architectural designs that do not necessarily reflect the social context within which urban infrastructure influences gender roles and the attendant mobility needs. To address the challenge across cities of similar context, the paper concludes with a set of analytic steps on how the gendered influences on infrastructure-use can be considered in urban planning cycles.

Keywords: African cities, gender responsiveness, city infrastructure, urban planning.

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