August 22, 2022
If you had a huge, smelly, bloated animal carcass – say, a horse or a buffalo – blocking the main street in your neighborhood, you could probably figure out who to call to do something about it.
But in much of the world, women in particular do not have access to municipal services simply because of a lack of transparent information. Through its Inform Women, Transform Lives initiative, The Carter Center is working with cities around the world to help more women access available services.
Several months ago, a large decomposing animal blocked a street in a township in Cape Town, South Africa. The whole community had to navigate around the carcass waiting for it to deteriorate enough to get rid of it, which could have taken weeks.
As a partner of The Carter Center, the City of Cape Town used public libraries to provide training to 400 township women on digital literacy and municipal services. This information soon proved useful: a township woman with the dead animal who had received the training told another that the town would remove the dead animals. Others didn’t believe her. She showed them by calling the city number she had learned from the campaign, and the same day, city workers came and took the carcass away.
“To think that because these women had no information, they had spent their entire lives living with the rotten smell of animals on their streets,” said Laura Neuman, who heads the Carter Center campaign. “Information is truly transformational.”
Over the past year, the first 12 cities participating in the campaign have come up with a dozen ways for women to improve their lives through public information, Neuman said.
Guatemala City promoted women’s centers that provide health, legal and social services. Colombo, Sri Lanka, has created a mobile app that women can use when they feel unsafe, especially on public transport where harassment is common.
Chicago has focused on increasing the number of women who receive the CityKey, a program that provides government-issued photo identification, especially important for marginalized women, such as survivors of domestic violence or those who are homeless, Neuman said. The key unlocks services such as access to public libraries, public transit, and discounted medication. With support from The Carter Center, Chicago recently reached 60,000 CityKeys distributed.
This spring, 12 more cities have been added to the campaign, and they all have plans to reach women in their area.
In Nairobi, Kenya, for example, organizers will contact women about the city’s health, legal and psychosocial services and support mechanisms for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. In Bogota, Colombia, the city will inform female caregivers of city resources, such as training, respite, and health services.
During a roundtable sponsored by The Carter Center, the Casablanca, Morocco team learned about the work being done by Monrovia, Liberia, one of the first cities in the cohort, to raise awareness of management services city waste. The Moroccans have decided to tackle this problem and plan to build on the experiences and lessons of Liberia.
Neuman called the exchange “an excellent example of peer-to-peer learning.”
“We know the incredible number of competing priorities that cities have to respond to every day,” she said. “But we also know that by providing meaningful information and ensuring it reaches women, amazing changes will happen.”