Our Watch

Skip to content

How gender transformative is your initiative?

Initiatives to address violence against women can range from gender transformative to gender unequal, and even harmful

A gender transformative initiative works to challenge and transform gender norms, roles, relations, power imbalances and their impacts. It would try to address the underlying causes of gender-based inequalities, and foster meaningful, progressive changes in gendered power relationships. How gender transformative is your initiative?

Effective approaches to prevent violence against women

Initiatives in these categories should be the focus of prevention work, as they alone can create the changes necessary to reduce violence against women. They contribute to gender equality, resulting in a lower probability of violence against women.

Most effective: gender transformative

These approaches address the causes of gender-based inequalities and work to transform harmful gender roles, norms and relations. They challenge both normative and structural inequality.


  • Promoting flexible employment conditions to working fathers while challenging the idea that caring for children is a woman’s job.
  • Whole-of-school respectful relationships education that challenges violence-supportive attitudes among the students and among teachers, parents and the wider community; and changes in school policies and structures to support gender equality.

More effective: gender specific

These approaches acknowledge gender inequalities and consider women’s specific needs, but do not transform norms and practices.


  • Supporting women’s leadership with mentoring, training and quotas but failing to challenge and change the workplace and wider social structures that result in fewer women being in leadership roles in the first place.
  • The improvement of lighting outdoor sporting areas. This work aims to increase women’s perception of safety, which means that more women use the facility. In the long term it may help increase gender equality in sports through increased participation by women and girls, but improving lighting is not in itself transformative.

No effect on preventing violence against women

Initiatives in this category may not cause harm, but they are unlikely to have any impact on violence against women.

No effect:gendersensitive

These approaches acknowledge but do not address gender inequalities.

They are not harmful, but they don’t make sustainable changes to society that lead to long-term and significant reductions in violence.


Campaigns that acknowledge and raise awareness that women are four times more likely than men to experience sexual assault during their lifetime, but do not suggest ways in which we can change society to reduce sexual assault.

Approaches that are not effective or do harm

Initiatives in these categories should be avoided as they cause harm and may have a negative impact on efforts to prevent violence against women. They contribute to gender inequality, resulting in a higher probability of violence against women.

Noteffective, even harmful: gender insensitive

These approaches ignore gender norms and inequalities, can minimise efforts to address gender inequality, and risk contributing to the gendered drivers of violence through implicit support of existing norms.


  • Prevention initiatives that focus exclusively on reinforcing factors like alcohol abuse (which can imply that alcohol is a ‘cause’ of violence, and implicitly excuse or justify perpetrator behaviours – or blame victims – who are under its influence.
  • Safety strategies for women such as self-defence classes.
  • Family violence campaigns that show men and women in equal numbers as victims and as perpetrators, when the reality is that women are far more likely to be victims, and men perpetrators of violence.

Not effective and harmful: gender unequal or exploitative

These approaches perpetuate gender inequalities and may inadvertently maintain or support gender inequality by reinforcing gender stereotypes.


  • Messages and actions that blame victims for the violence or place responsibility for managing perpetrator behaviour on women.
  • Social marketing campaigns that reinforce hyper-masculine stereotypes such as the ‘real men don’t hit women’ campaigns.
An infographic showing a range of definitions about the gender effect of prevention initiatives
An infographic from Change the story showing a range of definitions about the gender effect of prevention initiatives, from gender unequal to gender transformative.

Back to