CHIHUAHUA, Mexico -  Making women and girls safe in public spaces is key to ensuring their participation in community life, and to ending gender-based street violence and and harassment.

That’s why Spotlight Initiative has partnered with local civil society organizations, the Municipal DIF (National System for Integral Family Development), the Directorate of Mobility and Road Culture and the Subdirectorate of Family and Gender Violence of the Ministry of Public Security to rejuvenate public spaces in Fraccionamiento Riberas del Sacramento in the north of Chihuahua City, Mexico.

Boys and girls from the area participated in workshops on how to make their public spaces more welcoming for women and girls. Photo: Spotlight Initiative

Chihuahua is one of the worst states for violence against women and girls in Mexico, ranking 8th for femicide (the gender-based killing of women) according to data from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System.

Women, men, girls and boys from Colonia Riberas del Sacramento participated in meetings, neighbourhood tours, interviews and workshops to reflect on how to make their neighbourhood safer for women, girls and adolescents.

Despite the prevalence of social programmes, many women and girls said that they still felt unsafe in public spaces, which are largely dominated by men.

“There are many people who hardly go out,” said one woman from the neighbourhood. “[If we felt safe], people could come outside to play board games.”

The remodelled esplanade. Photo: Spotlight Initiative

In order to provide a meeting point for women and girls, the local esplanade was redesigned and restored with their needs in mind. This included the installation of extensive public lighting, pedestrian signs, repainting and other cosmetic improvements.

“[The esplanade is now] nice because there are girls who come to play,” said resident Ana Lizeth Chaparro, 33. “There is [a place] where the mothers can sit to take care of them and they can eat food at the picnic tables.”

Mural with a message

The Riberas del Sacramento project concluded with the inauguration of a 60 metre-long mural of a woman with a raised fist by Chihuahuan artist Iris Alexa.

“The women of Riberas want to feel free and safe in our streets. Harassment hurts us!” it reads. “To strengthen our community, we must respect and care for each other."

Resident Ángeles Martínez said that the mural serves as a constant reminder that "women must be respected."

“There are still people who think that women are weak and there are also macho people,” said one teenager who wished to remain anonymous. “The phrases [on the mural] force us to reflect.”

By UNODC Mexico