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Gender and urban poverty in South Asia - proceedings report of the 2012 subregional workshop


Executive Summary

In March 2012, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) held the Subregional Workshop on Gender and Urban Poverty in South Asia to share experiences and enhance lateral learning among ADB and its project partners on addressing gender and social inclusion issues in urban development projects in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Participants included senior government officials, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), researchers, ADB urban and gender specialists, and representatives of international development agencies. The objectives of the workshop were to (i) showcase emerging good practices in pro-poor gender- and socially inclusive design of urban infrastructure and urban development projects,

(ii) learn from successful implementation of ADB projects delivering gender equality results,

(iii) enhance the gender and development capacity of project staff implementing ADB projects, and (iv) synthesize workshop proceedings in a publication as a reference guide for gender and urban sector specialists in ADB and its partner agencies.
The main themes of the workshop were inclusive urban planning and governance, public–private–community partnerships, and capacity development for achieving gender equality results. Presentations and discussions highlighted the key challenges in addressing gender and social inclusion issues as well as lessons learned from initiatives benefitting the poor and women in cities and towns throughout the subregion.
This report presents the synthesis of knowledge, experiences, good practices, and recommendations shared at the forum with the aim of assisting ADB and its partner agencies in the planning of urban development projects to facilitate gender- and socially inclusive outcomes and reduce poverty in South Asia.
Urban Poverty—A Growing Challenge in South Asia While South Asia is the least urbanized subregion in Asia, with an average urbanization rate of 32.2% in 2010, compared with an average of 42.5% for the region, there are already serious signs for concern.

• Of the world’s 10 fastest-growing cities, 4 are in Bangladesh and India.

• 52.4% of South Asians are expected to live in urban areas by 2050 with an average 2.1% annual urban population growth rate between 2010 and 2050.

• The absolute number of people living in South Asian cities is projected to be among the highest in Asia, growing from about 549 million people in 2010 to 875 million in 2030. This constitutes 38% of the expected increase in the urban population in Asia and 23% of the expected urban population increase in the world in the next 20 years.

• Poverty and social exclusion in South Asia are significant with 35% of the urban population—190.7 million people—currently living in slums and squatter settlements, the highest proportion in the region.

• In addition to income poverty; poor-quality and overcrowded housing; insecure tenure; inadequate access to water supply, sanitation, and electricity and transport services; and limited schools and health care facilities in urban slums and informal settlements exacerbate poverty.

• 96% of South Asians living in urban areas in 2010 had access to improved drinking water through public taps and neighborhood water points, but only 51% had in-house piped connections. In comparison, only 64% had access to improved sanitation facilities and 18% used shared facilities.

• Health surveys conducted in 45 developing countries during 2005–2008 showed that globally, women bear the largest burden as primary collectors of water in 64% of households, compared with 24% of households for men, 4% for boys, and 8% for girls.

Women are particularly vulnerable to the risks associated with urban poverty. Lack of housing and security of tenure in slums impoverish single mothers and their children, increasing women’s vulnerability to evictions and exploitation in shared tenures or by landlords. A lack of access to infrastructure and services means that women and girls are preoccupied with household chores that deprive them of education, incomegenerating activities, and leisure. Unsafe water and lack of solid waste and wastewater management result in illnesses requiring care that limit women’s economic activities and drain family income. Inadequate transport services restrict women’s opportunities for employment and access to markets and put them at risk of sexual harassment in overcrowded buses and trains. Poorly lit streets, lack of employment, and insecure informal sector wages render women and girls vulnerable to exploitation, social diseases like HIV/AIDS, and resultant reproductive health problems.


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