Gender-Responsive buildings: Toward a better urban future

November 24, 2020 | By: Arch. Ana B. Capuno, UAP (as published in The Manila Times last November 24, 2020)

DECADES ago, the field of construction and design in the Philippines was dominated by men. Gender inequality was most common in the workplace and within the community. Most women tend to stay at home for caregiving and house chores, resulting in limited professional growth opportunities. On the other hand, working women were experiencing gender inequality at the workplace by receiving lesser pay due to the nature of the job assigned to them. Women were not able to get promoted to higher positions as quickly as men. Despite many equality initiatives, most males still dominated the workplace, especially in the construction industry.

This situation might be because women cannot work as hard as men like lifting heavy objects or climbing on top of the building without using the stairs. But as we began using modern construction methods with the latest technology, the number of women working in the construction industry has increased. As a result of women’s empowerment, which has been strengthened by the Magna Carta of Women, the perceptions that men are superior to women has changed drastically. In the practice of architecture and engineering, women are now competing with men. Recent statistics have shown that there is almost the same number of women board passers than men in the architecture and engineering profession.

In a complex society such as ours today, men and women should have equal opportunities and enjoy the same rights in all aspects of life. Gender equality is a fundamental human right eliminating discrimination against women, children, and marginalized groups, entitling everyone to equal rights and opportunities.

In the architectural field, architects and urban designers should be conscious of designing in response to different people’s needs. To promote gender equality in all public places, the architects and urban designers can play a vital role by making every design gender-responsive. Installing facilities for the needs of different people helps fulfill their full potential.

Being an architect, I promote gender equality by designing public buildings according to the needs of different people in the community. To achieve gender-responsive projects, I include a lactation room for breastfeeding women. Installing this may avoid some hindrances from doing activities they opted to do while taking care of their children. As stated in Republic Act 10028, Sec. 2, “The state shall likewise protect working women by providing safe and healthful working conditions, taking into account their maternal functions, and such facilities and opportunities that will enhance their welfare and enable them to realize their full potential in the service of the nation.” Being a mother should not hinder women from their desire to work and contribute to the economy. Another facility that I include in my design is the gender-neutral toilets. As toilets and washrooms for people with reduced mobility like the physically challenged and the elderly are now fully implemented to all public areas, gender-neutral toilets should also be included in the design. This will benefit the transgender who may face get into trouble using the wrong restroom and guarantee families’ safety. Moreover, it will be comfortable for parents to accompany other gender children to ensure their safety while inside the public toilets.

Installation of ramps and handrails are now fully implemented that people in wheelchairs can have access to streets, parks and public buildings. Visually-impaired persons should enjoy this opportunity as well. Architects and designers should give attention to their accessibility. Special fixtures like audible signals can help them have access and will be useful to the blind people on the crosswalk. Aside from ramps and curb cuts on the sidewalk, grass lines aligned to the crosswalk and audible pedestrian signals should be installed for the use of visually impaired pedestrians.

To ensure safe public places, lighting should be carefully designed. Well-lit parks and streets ensure a safer environment and avoid untoward incidents, especially to women. Some criminal activities happen in poorly-lit areas. In addition, mishaps can also be avoided with adequate lightings on the streets. These and other gender-responsive facilities benefit everyone and make our community safer.

I am proud that one of the government agencies in the Philippines who earns recognition for Gender Responsive Programs and is among the top four Most Gender-Responsive Government Agencies of GADtimpala 2013 is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The agency is also an awardee of the GADtimpala 2018 Bronze Award, the highest award given that year by the Philippine Commission on Women for its indisputable efforts in developing gender-responsive infrastructure projects that contribute to ensuring gender equality and protection of all stakeholders.

Here is where architects, engineers, and urban designers recognize both men and women, children and the elderly, and the physically challenged, taking into account their needs and their safety to give them full and equal opportunities in all buildings and other public places for a peaceful, progressive, and sustainable world for a better urban future.

Arch. Ana B. Capuno, UAP is the chapter president of the United Architects of the Philippines- Daraga Cagsawa Chapter for the Fiscal Year 2020-2021. She is also the vice president-internal of the Philippine Integrated Fire Protection Organization (PIFPO) Legazpi-Albay Chapter for FY 2020-2022 and a graduate of Bicol University in 1997. She holds a permanent position as Architect 2 and the focal person for Gender and Development (GAD) in the DPWH Sorsogon 2nd District Engineering Office.



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