The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

Gender Dialogues – the road to equality

How can inclusive infrastructure increase women’s participation in public life and enable safe access to work and opportunities?

‘Gender Dialogues: The Road to Equality’ was hosted by UNOPS, the Embassies of Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom to Denmark, and The Why Foundation. It explored how gender-inclusive infrastructure considers the different roles, responsibilities and particular needs of women, men, girls and boys in their specific contexts. Panelists discussed how it can open up avenues for women and girls to safely access basic services, support their upward social mobility and reduce the gender gap. 

If you leave women out then you are building inequality into the foundations of our future. We can’t do that. We must do better.

Émilie Potvin - UNOPS Director of Partnerships and Liaison Group

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the past few decades have seen more girls accessing education, fewer girls being forced into early marriage and more women serving in parliament and positions of leadership. Laws around the world are being reformed to advance gender equality. However, the gains have been modest. Discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. 

"We should not be taking the gender imbalance within society as a given and then building our initiatives on the basis of these structural inequalities,” said Nihan Akyelken, Associate Professor in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic worsens existing inequalities for women and girls across every sphere – from health and education, to public participation and the economy. It threatens to reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights. 

“So many people have suffered from COVID. If we just return to what we were doing, exactly the way we were doing it before COVID, then what are we saying about their suffering? A pandemic like this is an opportunity to re-calibrate and re-shape things,” said Nichola Mallon, Minister for Infrastructure for the Northern Ireland Executive.

To make certain that infrastructure development supports equal access to infrastructure services, driving increased economic opportunities for women and girls, the way infrastructure is planned, delivered and managed must change. Mainstreaming gender into the infrastructure life cycle has the power to improve and protect the lives and livelihoods of women and girls and strengthen the global economy for decades to come. 

Watch the discussion

Explore further