Toilets and mobility are terms that are rarely mentioned together, but are nonetheless closely linked, especially when it comes to women’s place in the public space. In a constantly changing world, women’s mobility in the city has become a crucial indicator of gender equality and individual autonomy. Today, cities are identifying a new common objective: to network the territory so that everyone can benefit from the same facilities.

What is the place of women in the public space today? 

In 2019, only 12% of Paris ways and 2% of French streets were named after a woman. This finding reflects a sad reality: women are under-represented in the public space. Several sociological studies have shown that most cities were built by and for men. A rather paradoxical reality, given that women are more often required to move around in public space than men: grocery shopping, school drop off and pick up, work, medical appointments and extra-curricular activities, etc. 

According to a study carried out in 2014 by a French advisory body on equality, women are responsible for almost 75% of the parental load, and tend to also care for the elderly. A 100% of them have already experienced sexist and sexual harassment on public transport at least once. The same study states that 76% of French women have been followed at least once in the street. This information leads us to the following conclusion: men occupy public space, while women simply cross it, for reasons of safety and lack of suitable facilities.

And what about access to toilets for women? 

When we analyze a woman’s daily life, we notice that on average she takes on 80% of the household load by herself. As a result, she’s more likely to get around town than a man. But here’s a small problem… The lack of public toilets! 

The covid 19 crisis may have done one thing… It made us realize that there’s a shortage of toilets in the city. With restaurants and bars closed, it had become difficult to find places to urinate. According to a study by Ifop, almost one French person in two (45%) was unable to relieve a pressing urge easily when the first lockdown took place. This figure is even higher among women, 51% of whom claim to have suffered from a lack of access to public toilets. In a world where it’s easier for men to urinate in public, women are forced to wait and cut short their journeys. An uncomfortable and unequal situation. 

Another inequality is the number of toilets provided for women. Women spend around 3 minutes on the toilet, compared with 40 seconds for men. This difference can be explained by physiological or clothing differences, but also by the time wasted by women trying to touch the bowl as little as possible. This results in ever more innovative techniques, but adds long seconds to the counter.  Even so, they don’t have the same number of toilets as men, who also benefit from a wide choice of to relieve themselves. Urinals for men are widely available in addition to public toilets. But where is the choice for women? 

Lack of choice is yet another obstacle on an already rocky road, and thus translating into:

  • Bad habit: during childhood, little girls are taught to hold back or pee “just in case”; 
  • Insecurity: at events, in the city ; 
  • Harassment: in schools, at work ; 
  • Discrimination: to do some jobs because of toilet access (construction) ;
  • Isolation: for elderly people who avoid going out for fear of not finding a place to urinate.
Inequalities towards women in the public space

Toilets are a real indicator of women’s place in society. 

In recent years, however, cities have become aware of the lack of facilities for women in public spaces, and are taking steps to remedy the problem. A number of strategic considerations are being taken into account: where to locate toilets, safety measures for women, repositioning of urban layouts, etc.

What are cities doing to reduce gender inequality in public spaces? 

A number of major French cities are looking to rethink their public spaces to enable women to enjoy them to the full. The aim is to reorganize urban facilities in high-traffic areas to ease tourism and give women equal access to public space. Cities such as Paris, Rennes and Pau have begun to deploy public toilets and urinals for men and women in strategic locations, with due regard for ecology, safety, cleanliness and privacy. 

Other measures have already been implemented in a large number of French cities:

An inclusive conception of public space : installing benches, public lighting and even infrastructures that take into account the specific needs of women, such as the women’s urinals found in Pau, Rennes and Paris. 

Enhanced security : by investing in urban video surveillance systems. In 2020, Nice was the city with the highest number of surveillance cameras in France : 2,600 for 346,000, or one camera for every 130 inhabitants. 

Education and awareness : by launching awareness campaigns to educate the population. Following the 2023 annual report by a French advisory body  on the state of sexism in France, the Ministry of the Interior has launched an awareness-raising campaign on women’s safety in the public space. The campaign introduces “Ma sécurité” (translate as “my safety”), the homeland security forces’ digital service offering instant dialogue in the event of aggression in the public space. 

Community consultation : involving citizens, especially women, in the urban planning process to make more equitable decisions.

How does madamePee contribute to facilitating women’s mobility in public space? 

madamePee is committed to facilitating women’s access to the toilet. 

We make sure they have a place that’s safe, intimate, accessible and environmentally friendly. We make sure we’re always in tune with their needs, offering a wide range of products to suit different situations: eventPee for festivals, indoorPee for infrastructures, urbanPee for cities, madamePee for women, misterPee for men. Thanks to frequent field surveys, we are able to improve our products as closely as possible to the expectations of madamePee users.

Our urbanPee range is specially designed to connect the territory. Space-saving, the cabins can be positioned at points of passage. Whether you’re a resident, a stroller, a passer-by or a tourist, the objective remains the same: to cross or enjoy the city in complete peace of mind. This is the case for the City of Paris, which has equipped the Canal St Martin and the Vilette to meet the high demand for sanitary facilities, particularly during the summer season.

madamePee urinals

There are many initiatives for a more egalitarian public space. For local authorities, the challenge is on! madamePee’s urinals will be on display at the Salon des Maires et des Collectivités Locales from November 21 to 23 in Paris-Porte de Versailles. Let’s meet on the Wc Loc stand C99 (Pavilion 3), we look forward to revolutionizing e public toilets with you!