3:00 p.m. March 2nd, 2016. Womenability leads the first official exploratory walk of its study-action. The weather is uncertain but the Local Development Team of the neighborhood La Chapelle (Paris XVIII), our local partner, is ready and motivated. Turnout is excellent as well, particularly since today is a holiday.
We start walking with forty local inhabitants, users and partners, both men and women, half of whom are about ten years old. Our route: Charles Hermite â€“ Valentin Abeille – Porte de la Chapelle. Some children wonder why we are going to Valentin Abeille – so far from their neighbourhood – while others cannot wait to visit the place where so many of their friends live. Nevertheless everyone, young and old, armed with our surveys and chalk, play the game of the exploratory walk.
The first thing to catch our attention – the impressive amount of dog excrement. While both the children and adults are eager to talk on this subject, a journalist covering the walk declared, « I hope we do not walk to talk about pee and poo? »
No indeed, this was not our primary objective. The main objective is to build cities where everyone feels good, and here cleanliness is a central element.
As this is just a part of daily life in the Charles Hermite neighborhood, the local inhabitants know how to avoid the varied wastes which mine their streets. Although we see some services of the Paris city hall working to keep the streets clean, this is not enough. Moreover, we do not see any « dog toiletsâ€ on our way. Perhaps this could be part of the solution? Although certainly it would not be enough on its own…
Returning to the heart of the topic, we found that conducting this exploratory walk with young children was most instructive. While adults address the issue of gender and public space only through the prism of security – and, therefore, of insecurity – the children naturally mention issues linked to games, leisure activities, aesthetics, and even sports in their city.
A child who might breathe new life into the debate on gender equality in the city…
« Therefore today we have a public space that is very mal oriented. Which is not neutral. So we are working towards gender diversity. Which is by the way a good thing for men as well… »