As this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) draws to a close on Human Rights Day (10 December), Public Health Scotland (PHS) recognises GBV as a major public health and human rights issue that requires focused efforts to end it.

In this blog Health Improvement Manager, Kevin Campbell, and Zero Tolerance’s Research and Participation Officer, Jenny Wartnaby, discuss how a public health approach to ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) can help.

At the heart of a public health approach to ending VAWG, a form of GBV, is prevention – stopping violence and abuse from happening in the first place. It involves tackling the root causes of VAWG and advancing gender equality. Prevention is something all of society has responsibility for, and which we all have a role to play in. Our roles will vary, but some of the things we should consider are:

  • What influence and actions can we take that will lead to improvements in the environments where we live, work and play for women and girls?
  • What impact can we make on changing attitudes and behaviours?
  • Can we improve how we collect and use data and other intelligence to help us identify the changes that will lead to better use of our services and resources?
  • Can we improve how we evaluate interventions so that we have better idea of what works and how to scale them up?

For Zero Tolerance tackling gender inequality is their core mission, and partnership working with key organisations is one of the ways they do this.


At Zero Tolerance we know tackling VAWG is a structural problem, requiring fundamental change, but there are some practical steps that can be taken at a local level to support this work.

Jenny Wartnaby, Research and Participation Officer

As part of 16 Days, PHS, Zero Tolerance and the Improvement Service held a workshop with local VAWG Partnerships and NHS GBV leads to discuss what makes local interventions successful as part of the collective approach to end violence against women and girls. Themes highlighted included:

Focus on culture, attitude, and behaviour change  

Support an inclusive culture that challenges stereotypes and creates an environment that promotes gender equality. For example, by working with local schools to integrate this into the curriculum, or ensuring all organisational practices and policies advance gender equality.

Be community specific and learn from the local context  

It is crucial that prevention work is tailored to and involves the community you are working with. Women and girls’ experiences of men’s violence are also magnified by other forms of inequality such as race, ethnicity, religion, class, ableism and sexuality. Prevention should be a collective effort to create positive change for all women and girls.  

Include all genders, particularly men and boys  

Research shows that prevention approaches that only challenge men, or only empower women, are not effective. Approaches that both redistribute power and create new and better understandings of gender are most successful. 

Building on the momentum generated by 16 Days of Activism and the launch of the refresh of Equally Safe, Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, we look forward to working with partners to support efforts to adopt a public health approach and implement prevention at the local level.

Ending VAWG is everyone’s business. Below are some resources, which can help us all think about how we can take action towards it.







Last updated: 08 December 2023