UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director Dr. Aisa Kacyira was one of the key speakers at the opening of this year's Commission on the Status of Women meeting that is currently taking place in New York.
Every year, representatives of Member States gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.
This is a week dedicated to the plight of women and girls in developing countries and during the session several parallel events including those that shine a spotlight on women living in urban poor areas are held.
Speaking at the opening of the Commission, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr Aisa Kacyira, said: "There has been a long-standing notion that the poor are better off in urban than rural areas, but recent studies and research are showing the contrary. Although conditions vary, research shows that women and girls often suffer the worst effects of slum life, such as poor access to clean water, inadequate sanitation, unemployment, insecurity of tenure and gender-based violence."
Each week three million people are added to cities in the developing world and one million people move from the countryside to a city slum district. One in every three of these people live in urban slums, a number expected to increase. Of these as many as two-thirds are women and girls.
Communication strategies have been essential in building partnerships between key stakeholders and adolescent girls; exposing actors to adolescent girls' issues, opinions, viewpoints, solutions; and, creating opportunities for adolescent girls to assert their rights and to actively participate in decision-making processes.
In a specific attempt to highlight the role that communication can play, UN-Habitat and its partners UNICEF, Plan International and Women in Cities International, held an interactive debate to bring together the voices of women and girls to discuss real examples of how communication has enabled people, and adolescent girls more specifically, to participate in shaping policies and programmes that affect their lives and in bridging the urban divide.
There are a multitude of push-and-pull factors that lead girls to migrate to cities. On the one hand, adolescent girls move to the city in order to be able to access better educational facilities, more diverse employment opportunities, and greater chances for social and political participation as well as access to media, information and technology. On the other hand, they may be escaping traditional customs and practices, such as early marriage and other parental constraints.