During fieldwork in May and June this year, I spoke with activists working in the many women’s movements and grassroots organizations in Medellin organized under the MESA DE TRABAJO DE MUJER DE MEDELLIN. All of the activists I interviewed described the situation of insecurity that many women experience in Medellin in both the private (e.g. the home) and the public spheres. Women tend to avoid certain public spaces (e.g. dirty areas, parks with little illumination) in the city because they are afraid of being harassed, beaten, or raped.
What contributes to women’s insecurity in Medellin?
According to the women’s movements and grassroots organizations, aside from patriarchy and machismo culture, state urban planning spatial policies -known as the Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial or POT- contribute to making the city unsafe for women. All municipalities in Colombia by mandate must have spatial planning policies. Furthermore, these spatial policies must be revised after some years. After revising Medellin’s POT, the MESA DE TRABAJO DE MUJER DE MEDELLIN observed that the urban planning spatial policies:
- Were gender blind.
- Did not address public security for women, only security in general. Thus, violence against women tends to be neglected.
- Created a built environment unsafe for women.
During the revision of Medellin’s POT in 2014, the MESA DE TRABAJO DE MUJER DE MEDELLIN went to various participation spaces demanding state urban planners and practitioners the inclusion of a gender perspective. Here too, they encountered obstacles. For instance, some urban planning practitioners initially refused to include a gender perspective in the POT.
Today, Medellin’s POT includes the principle of a gender perspective. Despite this achievement in urban planning spatial policies, the MESA DE TRABAJO DE MUJER DE MEDELLIN pointed out that the gender perspective in the POT was still too abstract.
“This is the next step”, one activist told me, “turning the gender perspective in Medellin’s urban spatial policies into practices for a safer city for women”.