Urban Studies cooperatives work towards a feminist city of Surrey

December 09, 2021
From L-R: Dionne Co, Ghazaleh Akbarnejad, Rahil Adeli, Farina Fassihi, Fiorella Pinillos and Aman Chandi.

City in Colour and Citopia, created by six migrant women of colour from SFU’s Urban Studies master’s program, aim to create an equitable, inclusive and accessible city and work environment for women.

The two urban consultancy cooperatives are part of a larger network of cooperatives under the Solid State Community Industries umbrella based in the city of Surrey.    

The cooperatives are working on a project called Towards a Feminist City of Surrey, funded by the Feminist Recovery Grant (FRG). The three-year project supports Surrey’s public institutions in their efforts to hire, retain and support racialized women in the workforce.

Rahil Adeli, Ghazaleh Akbarnejad, Aman Chandi, Dionne Co, Fiorella Pinillos and Farina Fassihi created the cooperatives to provide a safe space for women of colour in urban planning, and to engage with minority groups who are traditionally excluded in city planning.

Their goal is to analyze past and current City of Surrey EDI initiatives and policies with the aim of filling any gaps that prevent women from advancing in the workforce.

“Our long-term goal is to have more racialized women in decision-making positions,” says Pinillos. “By having women in these positions, the planning and development of the city will be more inclusive for underrepresented communities.”

Pinillos adds: “It is quite difficult for racialized women or migrant women in urban planning to make it to positions where they have decision making power. This lack of representation is what brought us together.”

The women hope that their diverse backgrounds and lived experiences, combined with their professional skills and education, offer a new perspective for urban planners.

“We speak multiple languages and come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds in urban management, architecture, design, communication and social policy,” says Arkbarnejad, an architect on the team. “These skills intersect to bring an interdisciplinary approach when looking at urban issues.”

The two cooperatives work closely together to support the FRG project and others in areas of community-led research, engagement, and data-driven urban initiatives.

To see one of their recent community engagement initiatives, please check out this video project, 2020 in 3 words, screened during SFU’s Urban Studies Pandemonium lecture series in March 2021.

The creators of City in Colour and Citopia look forward to creating a brighter, more inclusive future for immigrant women and women of colour in Surrey.