The public square of Husby is being redesigned in an attempt to make it safer and more welcoming for women.

You may have heard of Husby before, a north-west Stockholm suburb that hit the newspapers front pages in 2013 when a series of riots erupted there — reportedly in response to the police shooting dead a 69-year-old Portuguese man.

Now its main square is undergoing a significant transformation. Housing company Svenska Bostäder (SB), which is responsible for the remodelling, believes that with a “feminist, equality-based” urban planning the area could become more appealing to female residents.

“We need to get more women into the public spaces”, Nurcan Gültekin, Svenska Bostäder’s social sustainability coordinator in the district, told The Local. “It’s above all about having an equal public space where everyone, both men and women, feel welcome.”

Cars burning on the second day of riots in Husby, Stockholm (2013). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Improvements and changes in the main square and surrounding areas are the result of conversations held by SB with local residents since 2009. It became clear during those public hearings that the area around the tunnelbana (underground station) was the place where people, particularly women, felt most unsafe.

“We then started to get a clear image of how the centre is perceived and the factors playing into that. It emerged that women to a large degree were opting to take a detour around the centre. They didn’t feel comfortable,” Gültekin noted.

For now, street lighting will be improved to create a safer path to the station and through the square, but further upgrades to the underground station entrance are planned for the near future.

The main square’s café, which tends to attract mostly male customers, will also be relocated providing an opportunity to re-use the space as a meeting place for men and women equally.

“The cafe has become a natural meeting place for some Husby residents, mostly men. Today, however, women don’t have a natural meeting place in the centre. There is an imbalance. Our ambition is to create harmony, where both men and women dwell in and move around the centre,” Gültekin explained.

With this project, SB expects to open up the debate around feminist urban planning and motivate similar ventures in the future.

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