CDR’s partnership with the United Nations’ Women-led Cities Initiative


Women-led Cities was launched during the United Nations’ 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67). Women-led Cities is a joint initiative formed by UN-Habitat, UNCDF, and ellaimpacta, a consortium of women-led companies and philanthropies, to develop and support projects that accelerate gender equality, achieve SDGs, and create cities that foster inclusivity.

Achieving gender equality in political and public life is critical for upholding women’s human rights and also plays a pivotal role in progressing towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially as women still face unequal representation in public life. More than 50% of the world’s population are women, and only 5% of the world’s cities are led by women. WLC was founded last year to address this problem by creating a crucial link between women business leaders and women city leaders to promote and innovate solutions that empower women and serve the whole city.

WLC is a unique network of women business leaders globally and women mayors worldwide seeking to foster the growth and development of women in leadership, andn establishing new generations of women business leaders and political leaders. Working together and leveraging their expertise, women leaders will advocate for transformative change to accelerate progress against SDGs by improving safety for women in the city and access to basic services, while supporting women entrepreneurship, equal work rights, and political empowerment as women engage equally in local decision making.

Speaking of the launch, Executive Director of UN-Habitat Maimunah Mohd Sharif stated, “Women can’t wait 265 years to bridge the gender equality gap. We need to accelerate and support Women-led Cities to promote development and eradicate violence against women…women city leaders and women businesses leaders working together in solidarity can drive the transformation needed to support human rights, gender rights and equality.”

Leveraging the power of blended finance, WLC brings together financial institutions such as Multilateral Organizations, Development Banks, Foundations, Funds and Family Offices, to finance and support projects focused on addressing gender equality and promoting women leadership and inclusion. As of its launch, WLC has over $5 million pledged to begin its journey, and seeks to mobilize $480 million in the next four years to impact over 200 cities around the world, which will be directed towards financing gender responsive projects related to service delivery, infrastructure and economic growth, providing seed capital and investment in women-led businesses, and assisting local governments with financing and de-risking solutions for urban improvement projects.

WLC will begin its co-creation journey with a 12-month exploratory phase in select countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. This phase will further inform the philosophy of WLC, identify entry points for action, and capture lessons that can be applied at scale. Projects will work to address three main objectives:

  1. Political empowerment: Improved engagement of women in local decision-making processes
  2. Economic empowerment: Improved economic opportunities for women
  3. Better places to live: Improved urban environments for women

CDR is part of ellaimpacta initiative and is honored to contribute our expertise to this vital initiative and look forward to continuing our collaboration with UN-Habitat, UNCDF, and ellaimpacta to support women everywhere, accelerate progress towards gender equality, and make cities better for everyone.


Written by Lucia Domville


For more information on Women-led Cities, please read the announcement linked here.