Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsSo Women's Health West is a regional women's health service that works in Melbourne's western region. We are the largest specialist provider of family violence services to women and children experiencing and escaping family violence. And we also have a health promotion prevention arm that works directly to provide programmes and services to women and girls to increase gender equity. IWDA is an explicitly feminist organisation. So our partnership model really falls out of those feminist principles, which

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 secondsare: equality, power, sensitivity, contextual understanding. And so we believe that the women who are working within their own national context, geopolitical situation, are best placed to design their own programs, and understand what's best to advance women's rights in their context. And we would never presume to know better than they do. So we see our role as to support and enable that work.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 secondsAnd that's why we don't do that direct implementation. But we take their lead. And we do work to connect them with other organisations that we work with, and introduce them to new models in thinking and analysis, where we think it might be helpful. But we leave it up to them and their agency to determine what they take and what they leave and how they implement their own programs. Women's Health West has an explicit feminist mandate. We're a non for profit organisation. So it can lobby and advocate government around a range of key issues for women and girls, such as abortion access, prevention of violence against women, and the prevention of practices such as female genital cutting.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 secondsI think our specific role in our region is to ensure that women from diverse backgrounds have equal access to power and resources. So we have a focus on health equity and working with the most marginalised and disadvantaged women to ensure increased health and well-being outcomes. We're working with a couple of organisations in Timor-Leste, who have just implemented some really amazing work over the last year. And it really exemplifies the kind of theory that we have about how change happens. So in Timor, they've just had their Suku level elections, which is a village level election.

Skip to 2 minutes and 54 secondsAnd our partner organisation, the Alola Foundation, has been working in coalition with a number of other women's rights organisations in Timor, to approach women's participation from a few different angles. So they've been working with women candidates to build their confidence and their skills to run for elections at the village level. But they've also been working at a legal level to change the policies. And now there's a quota in place that's been the result of a long campaign by women's rights organisations there, so that there's now a quota, which has increased the amount of women actually running for those elections and doubled the amount of women who were elected last year.

Skip to 3 minutes and 41 secondsAnd then, alongside that work, they were, again, working in coalition with other organisations to do a public campaign around the importance of women in leadership and changing people's minds about seeing women as leaders. And so all of those different approaches work together to create the result of having double the amount of women elected at village level, as opposed to the last elections. So, I think a key milestone for the women's health programme, and Women's Health West specifically, was the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria in 2008. We lobbied and advocated to government and a range of key ministers to vote in favour of decriminalisation. That was successful.

Skip to 4 minutes and 29 secondsWe've also undertaken a lot of work to advocate and lobby state government around the prevention of violence against women. So in 2016, the state government committed to undertaking a royal commission into family violence, which was the first royal commission of its kind internationally. The outcome of that has been $1 point billion worth of investment in family violence prevention, intervention and response services to women and girls in Victoria-- so another highly successful outcome. So one of the major challenges of working in development is that a lot of the systems that we work with, like to have short-term tangible outcomes. They like to reproduce technical solutions. They want people to be experts and to have one-size-fits-all kind of solutions to problems.

Skip to 5 minutes and 31 secondsAnd those kind of approaches to development often end up reproducing systems of inequality and patriarchy and colonialism, which is the sort of systems that we're trying to dismantle. I think, for us, an ongoing challenge is the misconception that as a women's health organisation, we only work with women and girls. Our mandate is essentially to increase gender equity for women and girls. But to ensure equitable outcomes, we have to work with men and boys, and work to change contemporary notions of masculinity, and what it is to be a man, in order to increase access for women and girls.

Potential of Gender and Development

Gender and Development practitioners experience successes and challenges.

Where might we be heading? How could development and gender equity be integrated in practice?

Watch this case study video of two practitioners introducing their work in local community development and international global development.

They describe how:

  • Elected women doubled in number at the last Timor-Leste village level election.
  • A blend of local and international organisations worked in partnership and coalition at multiple levels to enable this change.
  • In 2016, the first ever royal commission on family violence was conducted in the state of Victoria. A Royal Commission is the highest form of inquiry into a matter of public importance.
  • Many organisations and individuals engaged in political advocacy and lobbying to bring about the inquiry.

What are some characteristics of their approaches that contributed to success? Consider who these practitioners worked with, where and how?


Compromises and challenges sit alongside successes in gender equity work.

The practitioners identify the immediate appeal but potential danger of:

  • short term responses
  • technical solutions
  • expert and one size fits all approaches to problems.

Notice the practitioners’ critical awareness about their own roles. They aim to avoid reproducing systems of inequality, patriarchy and colonialism. These systems are a legacy from the past and an ongoing context which affects practice in the present.

Your task

What are some distinctive ways in which these practitioners approach their work? Why are their approaches effective?

Discuss your ideas in the comments section. Remember to like other participants’ comments that you find particularly interesting.

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Gender and Development

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