Women are largely under-represented in street names around Geneva, despite making a significant contribution to the history of the canton and its municipalities. Of all streets named after people, only 7% refer to women.
This observation, which is repeated the world over, is not compatible with present-day demands for equality. For women and their stories to be both visible and acknowledged today, they must occupy a key place in our collective narratives.
In February 2020, the municipality therefore decided to submit a request to the Cantonal Nomenclature Commission (CCN) to name 16 venues in Geneva after women. This decision followed on from the100Elles* projectandMotion M-2536 accepted by the Grand Council in 2019, requesting that 100 street names within Geneva be changed over a period of three years.
First step towards more balanced representation
During the session of 26 August 2020, the State Council approved a change in the names of 10 streets within the territory of the City of Geneva. It also accepted the names of 4 women for whom the municipal administration has been invited to propose new sites with a view to a subsequent name change.
The City welcomes the decision of the State Council and is delighted by this first step towards a more balanced representation of men and women around the streets of Geneva. According to Alfonso Gomez, Administrative Councilor responsible for matters of equality and diversity, It is a strong political decision which will foster a lasting change in how people are represented and the gradual development of more egalitarian public areas. It is also important to acknowledge the fundamental work conducted upstream that gave rise to this outcome, the fruit of a successful partnership between the civil society, the academic world and the public institutions.
Pursuing the current dynamic
The people and companies concerned by the name changes will be informed of the next steps in the process by letter. All necessary information will be sent to them this autumn in order to facilitate the transition, which will take effect by the end of the year. For the most part, only limited measures will be required as most of the changes will be implemented automatically and at the same time (OCPM, SIG, La Poste, etc.).
Furthermore, the City intends to pursue its efforts to rename streets after women. It will submit a number of new proposals, taking into account not only of the names approved by the State Council but also of the research carried out by the historians of the 100Elles* project. It hopes to have created a certain momentum so that other municipalities around Geneva will follow the movement with a view to achieving the goal set by the motion of the Grand Council.
For more information on the request and the actions of the City of Geneva with regard to gender matters in public areas, see: www.geneve.ch/zero-sexisme
List of streets affected by a change of name available for download in the press release below.