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Gendered Public Spaces and the Geography of Fear in Greater Cairo Slums


As gender relations have spatial implications, girls’ and women’s daily activities are overshadowed by social, economic, and physical risks that limit their access to the public sphere and hence to opportunities. However, the lack of comparable and representative data still restricts the analysis of women’s and girls’ lived realities. This study utilizes a two-pronged qualitative methodological approach: 48 in-depth-interviews to understand how spaces become gendered, how they shape social norms, and what impact this process has on the mobility of different youth segments by sex, education, age, and employment status, and 12 participatory community mapping exercises to understand how young women and men use and perceive public space differently. The study demonstrates how sexual and gender-based violence render public spaces, in two slum areas of Greater Cairo, inaccessible to women and girls. Significantly different patterns of access to public spaces among males and females are recorded. Males cover far more ground than females in both areas of study and have access to more destinations, such as entertainment and sports facilities, whereas women constantly needed to legitimize their occupation of public spaces based on traditional gender roles. Additionally, the coping mechanisms that girls and women adopt to mitigate the constant threat of sexual violence further gender the public space by mainstreaming the notion that sexual violence is a normal part of any girl or woman’s experience of public space—forcing women to retreat further.

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    Out of labour force refers to those who chose to opt out of the labour force and are not seeking employment, while unemployed refers to those who are actively seeking employment.


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This study was funded by the Population Council, Egypt.

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Correspondence to Salma Nasser.

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Ethical procedures were followed in the research, including informed consent from guardians of children, as well as informed assent of all minors and informed consent from emancipated youth. Individual participant names were not collected during the research, so the risk of linking information collected with any individual is extremely low. Careful attention was paid to wording used for data collection, and participants were assured that they were under no obligation to continue the work if they felt at all uncomfortable.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nasser, S., Hassan, R. Gendered Public Spaces and the Geography of Fear in Greater Cairo Slums. Glob Soc Welf (2021).

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  • Sexual violence
  • Participatory mapping
  • Gendered public spaces