Urban design along with the design of public space plays an integral role in shaping the quality and experience of life for city dwellers and is considered key in a functioning city, therefore it is the hope to ensure that all public spaces and systems are inclusive and respond adequately to the needs of all users. However according to the authors such as (Livingstone and Matthews, 2017), the contemporary city has employed an urban form that is illusory and detached, this detachment could manifest itself in a variety of concerns, as the design of public space shapes the city, it becomes inherently political highlighting issues which may not be thought about in the design process such as gender due its lack of directly engaging.” Urban Planning should value the complexities of urban living and its diversity” (Jacobs, 1961), but still, women seem to face a disproportionate number of issues in the public realm such as safety, access to services and representation with a failure to recognize the variety ways in which women experience public space and their needs. While there is a growth in popularity in the consideration of gender in urban design in cities such as Barcelona, Vienna, and Europe in general, in cities of the Global South such as Lagos, while developing several initiatives are still falling behind with many focusing on the country in a larger context. 

The Role Society Plays in Shaping Public Space

As a primarily patriarchal society, social stratification in Nigeria is based on gender with women having critical constraints in their roles and limited participation in decision-making processes, the social begins to affect the infrastructural. Women are hardly being consulted or even considered as stakeholders in the development of public space though they are its primary users, particularly in informal spaces such as markets, walking, and public transportation. Combined with urban design systems built using tools of colonialism, decisions regarding public space are made in response to strong cultural influences, even though Lagos now is a modern metropolis women are still enduring the aftermath of decisions made without their consideration affecting their everyday experience, particularly their daily transportation. 

Designing Inclusive Public Spaces: A Women's Perspective - Sheet1

Beginning of the Journey 

“I just noticed a hand raised my shirt and he was using his finger” (Transport Documentary in Lagos, 00:00:26- 00:00:30), this quote taken from a documentary by LUDI (Lagos Urban Development initiative) in 2022, highlights the experiences of many women in Lagos public transport systems. Transport goes beyond moving from one place to another but also acts as a means of asserting and developing autonomy. In a report from the same documentary, LUDI points out that even though women are 57% of the informal sector in the city, existing transport systems do not consider them, inhibiting them daily. Instead, they are left feeling unsafe with a shocking 70% of women witnessing sexual harassment on public transport (Transport Documentary for Lagos, 00:01:50-00:01:52) leaving them wary but unfortunately due to socio-economic factors and lack of other options still reliant on these systems for mobility. This lack of safety is then combined with transport networks which do not consider complexities that may occur in a woman’s journey such as childcare and carrying of goods, according to (LUDI, 2021) zoning strategies and roads do not consider the more complex possibilities of their journey compared to a man’s. Overall, this issue is only enhanced by the lack of representation of women in public space, not only in decision-making but also physically with a lack of street names, murals, and statues representing women which could lead to feelings of exclusion inhibiting women from participating and engaging with the design of urban space. This issue while underlining the politics and interconnection of public space, design, and gender, points out how women are unintentionally written out of the city due to a simple lack of thought.

Designing Inclusive Public Spaces: A Women's Perspective - Sheet2
ONE WOMAN’S EXPERINCE_httpswww.aljazeera.comfeatures2022330nigerias-lagos-life-with-a-disability-in-the-african-megacity
Designing Inclusive Public Spaces: A Women's Perspective - Sheet3
ALONE IN THE BUS_httpswww.informationng.com2015125-things-only-people-who-use-public-transport-in-lagos-would-understand.html


An inclusive city for women translates to an inclusive city for all with better economic and social development for all, with social advocacy not only affecting women but all members of society. Public space should begin to combine social and physical infrastructure with a focus on concepts such as walkability and safer city planning. Beyond this the real catalyst involves increasing the role and position of women in concerns of public space and policy, particularly promoting equality through including a wider audience of stakeholders in processes of formulation planning, service and delivery, and infrastructural development (LUDI, 2022). Including women in the consideration is not just a matter of convenience, it is a key step towards creating a city that reflects and prioritizes the safety of all and not just a few of its citizens.

Reference list 
  • Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House.
  • Lagos Urban Design Initiative (2021). A Guide for Gender Inclusive Design in Lagos. Abuja: Heinrich Boll Stiftung.
  • Lagos Urban Design Initiative (2022). Gender Inclusive Planning and Design Training Module. Abuja: Heinrich Boll Stiftung.
  • Lagos Urban Design Initiative (2023). Transport Documentary in Lagos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Dec. 2023].