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Girls make the city!

Discover why Wetopia and ZIJkant have developed this project together with teenage girls.

In the late summer of 2022, ZIJkant and Wetopia united 25 young people with very different interests and backgrounds around a piece of Brussels they share: the skate park at Chapelle and its immediate surroundings, in the Marolles. It is a place and a neighbourhood where none of them feel really free or safe. Together they thought about how their city could become a more inclusive place, for themselves, but also for their parents, friends and neighbours. Their proposals were translated into recommendations for urban planners. A team of architects went on to work with some of the concepts.

Read everything about this project in this publication in 3 languages Dutch/French/English.

In Brussels, together with women’s organisation Zijkant, we did a wonderful Wetopia project that builds new alliances between girls from very different backgrounds to jointly claim more and better space in the public space to make room for girls. And through that, for everyone.

Just like in any other city, there is a great need for more and better public space for girls. Research shows that girls are more likely to meet inside because they don’t feel ‘at home’ outside. Cities are also made for men. Girls feel unsafe (Plan International: 9 out of 10 girls have experienced sexual street harassment). Street furniture is made to fit men. Football pitches and other playgrounds in the city are claimed by boys.

Like other initiatives emerging internationally such as “Make Space for Girls”, we work with girls to claim their place in the city and make a positive contribution to a city tailor-made for everyone. 

For this purpose, we chose a place in the centre of Brussels, the skate park and its surroundings at the Kapelle Church, to build new alliances between girls aged 16 to 23 from a secondary school in the neighbourhood, skate and rollerskate girls from the square itself and girls from the youth welfare work Foyer des Jeunes des Marolles and Habitat et Rénovation, with girls living in the neighbourhood.
Together they worked in different workshops through a regenerative development process with each other, their peers, the neighbourhood and a group of activist architects. We looked for the essence of the place and the challenge and developed a number of interventions, some of which we will implement as strong examples. We also compiled what we have learned in a podcast and in a series of recommendations for the city and other cities.

We also won the Matexi award of “Most connecting neighbourhood initiative 2022 in Belgium”!

We could do this with Wetopia thanks to the collaboration with Zijkant, the local partners and the support by the City of Brussels and the Equal department of the Region of Brussels.

visual designed by Brussel based illustrators Nora Juncker and Manon Brûlé // //

De Standaard 6/9/2022

Article in The Brussels Times “One of the chosen initiatives, called ‘Girls make the City’ by the ZIJkant non-profit organisation and Wetopia, is centred around a group of teenage girls who live and go to school at the foot of the Église de la Chapelle in the city centre. Guided by experts, they will be encouraged to think about what they need to feel at home in that area. As part of the new traffic circulation plan and the scrapping of one car lane, an entirely new space will open up. Once the workshops are over, the aim is to carry out a concrete intervention by and for girls.” 6/9/2022

Artikel in Architectura met de zes projecten die de Stad Brussel ondersteunt, waaronder Girls make the city. “Girls make the City- ZIJkant vzw en Wetopia. Aan de voet van de Kapellekerk organiseert ZIJkant VZW dit najaar een co-creatieparcours met een groep tienermeisjes. De meisjes wonen in de buurt of gaan er naar school en zullen onder begeleiding van experten aangemoedigd worden om na te denken over de publieke ruimte in de stad: wat hebben zij nodig om er zich thuis te voelen? De plek werd niet toevallig gekozen. In het kader van het nieuwe circulatieplan, en schrapping van één rijstrook, komt een hele ruimte tussen de Kapellekerk en het skatepark vrij. Op deze plek is het de bedoeling om op het einde van de workshops een concrete interventie door en voor meisjes uit te voeren. Er zal ook een publicatie uitgebracht worden met aanbevelingen voor genderinclusieve publieke ruimte en een podcast met de ervaringen van de meisjes. “

Artikel in HLN “De bedoeling is om lokale meisjes samen te brengen en hen mee te laten denken over de verdere herinrichting van het skatepark Zij moeten zich er in de toekomst ook thuis kunnen voelen. Vandaag voelen meisjes zich vaak nog onveilig op straat en daar willen we met het project ‘Girls make the city’ verandering in brengen. We willen knusse hoekjes creëren waar elk meisje zich goed voelt. De tienermeisjes uit de buurt krijgen carte blanche tijdens enkele workshops die in september van start gaan. Later dit jaar zullen de beste ideeën uitgewerkt worden door een architectenteam en vervolgens vorm krijgen in de openbare ruimte. Nog voor de kerstvakantie zou het skatepark zijn finale vorm gekregen moeten hebben.”

In het VRT journaal van 6/9/22

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Wetopia interventions aim to create " us " between people who do not always know each other but share the same place or neighbourhood. Starting from the love for and thus the potential of that place, we work together on social challenges and challenging questions. 

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