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Physical Autonomy

A variety of social phenomena interfere in, or explicitly violate, women’s and girl’s autonomy, including violence and encroachment of reproductive choices. Governments must understand and respond to these phenomena to empower women to maintain control over their bodies and lives.

What We Measure:

Physical Autonomy

The five indicators in this category help determine whether women have control over their bodies:

  1. Teenage maternity rate
  2. Maternal mortality rate
  3. Prevalence of intimate partner violence
  4. Prevalence of other than intimate partner violence

Teenage Birth Rates

Women who have children at an early age experience reduced opportunities for socioeconomic advancement. Young mothers are less likely to complete their education, and may find it difficult to combine work with fulfilling family responsibilities.

Adolescent birth rates also tell us a bit more about access to pertinent health services since young people, and in particular unmarried adolescent women, often experience difficulties in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.

Case Studies from Barcelona and Bogotá

Barcelona’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy aims to promote protection, respect, and guarantee sexual and reproductive rights. The Strategy emphasizes the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, and sexual violence by providing access to preventive methods and quality services.

  • Teenage pregnancies & abortions in Barcelona

  • 45,000

    leaflets on contraception and access to abortions have been distributed among Barcelona’s youth in 2022 alone.

Bogotá has also taken steps to decrease teenage birth rates. This is visible in the rate of births per year, which dropped from 37 per 1,000 women, to 22 per 1,000 women, in the last five years.

  • Adolescent birth rates in Bogotá have decreased in the last five years from 37 to 22 births per 1,000 women.

  • Amongst 15 to 19 year olds, teenage birth rates have decreased by 75% over a decade.


Maternal Mortality Rate

Birth and death data is one of oldest data collection systems. Tragically, while most maternal mortalities could be prevented today, they persist. Moreover, women of lower socio-economic status are at higher risk – making this a pressing social and gender justice issue.

Maternal mortality rates vary widely across CHANGE cities.

Case Study:

Multi-City Maternal Mortality Rates

  • Maternal mortality Rates in Change Cities


Intimate Partner Violence

Violence against women is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination, and intimate partner violence is one of the most common forms of violence that women face globally.

Given prevailing social norms that sanction male dominance over women, male violence towards their female intimate partners is often perceived as an ordinary element of relationships in the context of marriage or other relationships.

Violence Against Women and Girls is difficult to measure as it is underreported worldwide. Data often relies on formal reports to law enforcement authorities, and victims and survivors don’t always disclose these crimes. In fact, most women who were sexually harassed do not report the incident to authorities, and some forms of gendered violence aren’t even illegal.

CHANGE cities take different approaches to gathering a better understanding of gender-based violence in order to respond accordingly. Our Violence Against Women and Girls Working Group focuses on tackling GBV specifically.

Case Studies from Melbourne & Barcelona

The City of Melbourne utilizes data on family violence through the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency, which publishes crime data recorded by Victoria Police in the Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP).

From 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023, there were 2,127 reported incidents of family violence in the City of Melbourne. Three quarters of affected family members in this time period were female. This proportion has remained consistent over the past five years.

Since March 2018, the overall number of reported family incidents has increased, peaking in 2021. However, this has decreased in 2022 and 2023.

  • In reported family incidents in Melbourne, between 2022 and 2023, 3/4 of affected family members were female. This has remained consistent over the past five years.

  • 2,127

    family incidents were reported between April 2022 and March 2023 in the City of Melbourne.

As relying on police or court data is an inaccurate way to measure the extent of gender-based violence and harassment in our cities, Barcelona takes a different approach. Every 5 years, the regional government of Catalonia and the Barcelona City Council conduct a survey to obtain data on violence suffered by women. All gender based strategic plans in Barcelona are informed by the findings of these surveys. The survey has revealed that 72% of women in the city have experienced male sexual aggression in the course of their lives, and 37% have experienced gender violence from a current or former partner.

  • 72%

    of women have experienced male sexual aggression in the course of their lives.

  • 37%

    of women have experienced gender violence from a current or former partner.


Qualitative indicators

CHANGE also works with cities to understand what policies, programs, and initiatives improve to women’s physical autonomy. If you look through our policy library, you will see how CHANGE cities contribute to the following:

  • What We Measure:

    Physical Autonomy

    1. What regulations and/or policies are in place to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual characteristic (SOGIESC)?

    2. What regulations and/or policies are in place to guarantee full and equal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare?

    3. What regulations and/or policies are in place that guarantee full and equal access to sexual and reproductive health education?

    4. Does the city offer free contraceptives and menstrual products?

Photo of Barcelona skyline

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