Policy Brief

Promoting gender equality to prevent violence against women

Publication Year:
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions



Promoting gender equality is a critical part of violence prevention.

The relationship between gender and violence is complex. Evidence suggests, however, that gender inequalities increase the risk of violence by men against women and inhibit the ability of those affected to seek protection. There are many forms of violence against women; this briefing focuses on violence by intimate partners, the most common form. Though further research is needed, evidence shows that school, community and media interventions can promote gender equality and prevent violence against women by challenging stereotypes that give men power over women.


School initiatives are well placed to prevent violence against women.

School-based programmes can address gender norms and attitudes before they become deeply ingrained in children and youth. Such initiatives address gender norms, dating violence and sexual abuse among teenagers and young adults. Positive results have been reported for the Safe Dates programme in the United States of America and the Youth Relationship Project in Canada.


Community interventions can empower women and engage with men.

Community interventions can address gender norms and attitudes through, for example, the combination of microfinance schemes for women and methods that empower men as partners against gender-based violence. The strongest evidence is for the IMAGE microfinance and gender equity initiative in South Africa and the Stepping Stones programme in Africa and Asia. Community programmes with male peer groups show promise in changing attitudes towards traditional gender norms and violent behaviour, but they require more rigorous evaluations. Well-trained facilitators and community ownership appear to boost the effectiveness of these interventions.


Media interventions can alter gender norms and promote women’s rights.

Public awareness campaigns and other interventions delivered via television, radio, newspapers and other mass media can be effective for altering attitudes towards gender norms. The most successful are those that seek to understand their target audience and engage with its members to develop content. We do not yet know, however, whether they actually reduce violence.


Programmes must engage males and females.

There is some evidence that microfinance schemes that empower women (without engaging with men) may actually cause friction and conflict between partners, especially in societies with rigid gender roles. Further research is needed to explore how such possible negative effects might be overcome.


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