EngageWR Introduces Speakers Series on Equitable Cities

Engage Waterloo Region (EngageWR) is an online platform that allows municipalities in Waterloo Region to gather feedback through multiple formats about current and future initiatives. This year, they introduced the Building Equitable Cities Speaker Series which is an initiative in partnership with Feminist Shift, YW Kitchener-Waterloo (YWKW), YWCA Cambridge and Women’s College Hospital. The speaker series aims to start a conversation with Engage WR and the community at large about building equitable cities. 

“[One] goal of the platform is to ensure we are [maintaining] a consensus around government transparency and building public trust,” Sue Weare, community engagement consultant for the City of Kitchener, said. 

First established in 1905, the YWKW is an organization that provides services to women and girls to support physical and mental wellbeing and economic choice and independence. Some of the resources they provide include childcare, emergency shelter, employment programs, and affordable housing. 

“We had started a conversation in our realm where [we wanted to look at] at feminist cities, city planning and urban design from that perspective,” Jennifer Gordon, director of advocacy at the YWKW, said.

The first installment of the speaker series was on Jan. 31 and featured Leslie Kern, author of Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World, talking about how city design has failed women. Those who would like to hear Kern speak on this subject can listen to her recent appearance on The Feminist Shift podcast. 

“Leslie Kern is really great at breaking [down] some of the ways that we don’t even realize that sort of that traditional sexism and patriarchy comes into play for how cities are built,” Gordon said. 

“That’s everything, from little things like how transportation is arranged [to the] types of housing that goes in,” she said. 

There will be four installments of the speaker series in 2022 that will feature a diverse list of speakers exploring how cities can be built to better accommodate the diversity of our community, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Part of the approach that we’ve taken is to recognize that no one person has all the answers, no one organization or one government has all the answers when it comes to equity. Only in working together across sectors, across governments, and together with the public are we going to be able to achieve that vision that we all have for a more just and equitable world,” Weare said. 

The next installment in the speaker series will be on Apr. 26 featuring Leilani Farha, global director of The Shift, speaking about the value of a human right to housing framework for local governments. Registration can be found on the EngageWR website