Urban studies has only recently begun to incorporate feminist perspectives, and in doing so reflects on the working not just of political economy, but also patriarchy. While urbanisation can challenge the private patriarchy found in suburban and rural environments due to the higher density and diversity of people, public patriarchy can be reinforced as women, once dependent on men, also become dependent on paid work, employers, and the state and its gender-insensitive systems.
This paper, written by authors from the Department of Sociology and Plateau State University, Nigeria, presents a succinct literature review introducing these concepts, and the various gendered impacts urbanisation has delivered. These impacts serve to reproduce patriarchal systems where women are classed as second-class citizens, and are subject to various forms of risk and abuse. The paper focuses on women’s health issues in urban environments, where the anonymity and invisibility of women enables domestic violence, robbery, and sexual assaults, to a greater degree than in rural areas, where it is harder to hide abuse in more linked and homogenous communities.
There are also opportunities for women brought about by urbanisation, making the process something of a double-edged sword. Urbanisation affords women the opportunity to obtain paid employment that gives them both socio-economic emancipation, and a voice in some neighborhoods’ discussion and decision making. Furthermore, women in cities have better access to more services, including healthcare and community savings schemes. However, these new roles and opportunities often come in addition to women continuing household chores and caring for family, placing a great amount of pressure on women.
The paper closes with some concrete recommendations for policy makers, urban developers, development agencies, and the general public on how to improve the lives of all urban citizens, especially vulnerable groups like women:
- Women’s position in government and decision making must be enhanced to ensure women’s needs are integrated in urban centres.
- More discussion and advocacy is required to help bring about changes in societal attitudes, and promote acceptance of ideas of equity, and the complementary nature of gender roles.
- Women must be encouraged and motivated to take risks, challenge norms, and participate in civic life.
- There is a need to build alliances across the gender divide, and embrace and promote a more democratic approach to public matters.
- Women must unite, eliminate the unnecessary rivalry, and conquer their common enemy: patriarchal society.