Addressing Gender Concern in India's Urban Renewal Mission

30 Dec 2009


The resource book collates a series of innovative initiatives undertaken by states/civil/women groups to address discrimination and gender inequalities to facilitate experience sharing, mutual learning and replication in other parts of the country.

The Jawaharlal National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) aims to pursue reform, good governance and planned development in urban areas. It seeks to set up participatory, transparent and accountable processes, mechanisms and institutions to enable all citizens - poor and rich, men and women – to access equitable and legitimate basic services. JNNURM is a joint mission of the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA).

JNNURM is a response to concerns arising out of the rapid and unplanned urban growth and the economic disparities that are creating ‘dual cities’, one face of which is modern and developed while the other is underdeveloped and without basic amenities. It is where the less productive, less skilled, less wealthy citizens who have lower voices and power live; often excluded from the formal economy and from the modern city.

JNNURM’s good urban governance and reform agenda seeks to improve effectiveness, accountability, efficiency, sustainability and service equity in cities. It also aims to reduce class and gender fragmentation by making socio-political-economic institutions, processes and resource allocations more equitable. This objective of equitable urban development is also enshrined in India’s national poverty-reduction goal, endorsed in the Global Millennium Development targets and set out in the Government’s National Common Minimum Programme.

Gender based urban development is about promoting cities that respond equally to men and women. However, ‘because women experience cities differently’ (Beall, 1996: 2), meeting women’s needs becomes critical to promoting sustainable/equitable urban development. In patriarchal economies such as India, women’s interests have conventionally been underrepresented in policy and planned development. Enhancing women’s role and participation in urban governance is vital in creating equitable cities and will be a key measure of the success of JNNURM.

Gender mainstreaming is a well accepted strategy, worldover, to promote gender equality. Mainstreaming is about incorporating gender into all aspects of development programming - policy, dialogue, legislation, structures and institutions, resource allocations and use, planning, implementation and monitoring. In the context of JNNURM, gender mainstreaming will be about keeping the needs of women in mind when developing urban infrastructure. Gender is however, not a ‘core competence’ among urban local institutions or managers, who remain largely concerned with the provisioning of basic services. Besides, gender expertise is mostly seen to be within the domain of conventional women’s programmes/agencies such as Women and Child Development. Building gender friendly cities will require the intertwining of gender knowledge within local government institutions so that these can better respond to gender needs, in particular address requirements of women, especially those living in slums and low resource communities.

Even as JNNURM has been focusing attention on urban infrastructure development and implementation of reforms, the gender perspective within JNNURM have been overlooked. This paper makes a case for mainstreaming gender issues within JNNURM. By creating a better understanding of urban gender concerns, especially as they relate to the provision of basic services and policy reform, the paper seeks to provide guidelines and set out a road map, for urban local bodies on integrating gender issues within the urban renewal and reform agenda. Specifically, its focus is on ensuring that City Development Plans (CDP) and Detailed Project Reports (DPR) are prepared, reviewed and monitored, using a gender based approach. The success of urban development programmes and missions can only take place when the municipal staff, elected representatives and state and national urban development agencies are all seriously convinced of the need for gender mainstreaming in their project activities.

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