Navigating the City: Female Students’ Experiences of Movement in Johannesburg

Makan, Darshika
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University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
It is clear that men and women experience the city differently. The practice of urban planning tends to ignore this and continues planning in a gender-neutral fashion. Planners should aim to have a wider understanding of different groupings of individuals of society in order to plan inclusive cities that accommodate all its citizens. Johannesburg is a city that students move to, temporarily or permanently, to further their studies. Women’s ability to fully utilise the city depends on their ability to access transportation. Violence occurs within the public realm of Johannesburg whereby women’s perceptions of danger limits their movement in the city. This research explores how female students who are newcomers to Johannesburg (from within South Africa and foreign nationals) experience moving around in the public realm. This research investigates the extent that physical accessibility and perceptions of safety have on the movement patterns of female student newcomers. The research drew on the experiences of fifteen female students from University of the Witwatersrand. The fieldwork was conducted through a set of initial interviews as well as experiences recorded in a notebook and a second follow-up interview. Analysis was done through mapping, comparing respondents’ experiences and through relating findings to theory. The outcome of the research revealed that physical accessibility and perceptions of safety impacts female students’ movements, as well as other factors of the length of time since the move to Johannesburg, the cost of movement and whether students have company to move between spaces and their perceptions of spaces. It was discovered that their movement choices are more complex than the above two factors. Gender sensitive planning is the main planning tool that may assist in creating positive experiences of female student newcomers in the city. It is understood that planners need to consider the legibility of spaces and the safety of different modes of transportation. These students, due to their unfamiliarity with the city and limited finances, require easy access between spaces. It is also understood that institutions, such as the university, should aim to assist these young women with settling in to a new city environment as adjustment issues often do arise. The ability to better plan for this grouping of young people will ensure that Johannesburg is an all-inclusive city that does not further discriminate against women in public spaces.
Planning Honours Report 2015, Wits University
women, Johannesburg, gender, planning, inclusive city, students, access, public, safety
Makan, D (2015). Navigating the City: Female Students’ Experiences of Movement in Johannesburg , Johannesburg