“How can we know so much about gender-based violence – its prevalence, its causes, strategies for prevention, early intervention and response – yet continue to live with the devastating loss of one woman a week because of intimate partner violence, while many more suffer pain, distress, fear and loss of autonomy in their daily lives?”

We asked this question last year during our 2022 16 Days of Activism campaign – and we will continue to ask it until decision-makers invest significant resources and commit adequate funds to the elimination of gender-based violence.

We want the community to know that we cannot sit around and wait for our elected decision makers to prioritise the safety and human rights of women – as outrageous as that sounds. We want the community to know that, in spite of how overwhelming the problem feels, that we can take action every single day to contribute to the prevention of gender-based violence.

Statistics show that about half of women have experienced sexual harassment and more than a third of women have experienced physical or sexual violence – these statistics are higher in many communities, requiring tailored solutions. Statistics for transgender and gender diverse people are less developed, however, rates of violence are not believed to be any better – and we need to prioritise data collection to inform meaningful solutions. The numbers are staggering, but the devastating truth is that numbers like these reflect more than the rates of violence. These numbers also uphold what many women across Australia know – that gender-equality enshrined in law does not equal gender-equality in our daily lives.

So what can we do, as individuals and as a collective?

At Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE), we believe in the power of primary prevention. Other kinds of prevention, like holding perpetrators of violence to account and providing increased resources to people at risk, can be effective. But these methods come at the cost of lives. Primary prevention aims to prevent violence by changing culture, addressing the attitudes and behaviours that allow and encourage gender-based violence.

When it comes to changing culture to help prevent violence, we can all have an effect. Here are some actions you can take to affect change at the individual, community, organisational and institutional level (via Respect Victoria):

  • Shift attitudes by challenging behaviours that condone violence against women, girls and gender diverse people. This might look like not laughing at sexist jokes, believing and supporting victims when they speak out, and focusing media language on the perpetrator of violence rather than the victim’s behaviour.
  • Show that women, girls and gender diverse people are valued by upholding their rights, freedoms and autonomy. In practice, this might look like instituting workplace policies which encourage women and gender diverse people into more leadership positions, and universal access to affordable childcare.
  • Allow everyone to express and be themselves by challenging gender stereotypes. On an individual level, this might look like men and women sharing housework responsibilities equally. On larger scales, this might look like encouraging men to study professions like nursing or childcare or allowing fathers the workplace and community resources to be primary carers.
  • Create healthier masculine relationships that value people of other genders. This might look like men holding other men to account for sexist jokes, educating boys about consent and expressing emotions, and making male-dominated spaces more inclusive for people of other genders and minority backgrounds.

Prevention of gender-based violence requires action, changing attitudes, development of policy, adopting mindful and inclusive language, reflecting on biases, improving gender equality and, most importantly, investment. So, get on board. Act, and trust that when we act collectively, as a society, as communities and as voters, we are making an effective contribution to preventing violence.

When we are horrified, devastated or overwhelmed we can remember that small actions and public support for gender equality initiatives matter. Advocating, encouraging and nurturing a more civil society can impact the way communities, organisations, businesses and governments value prevention work.

It might seem big, but our actions can be bigger.