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Gender justice and women's rights

Sahrulnissa and other women in her village joined 'March of AAROH' which demands co-ownership of land for women. (India, 2011)

Women and girls form the majority of those living in poverty. Achieving gender justice is a matter of basic rights and also a key means of addressing poverty


Gender inequality is the most serious and pervasive form of discrimination in the world. While this affects everyone, it is women and girls who face the most discrimination as a result of gender inequality. This is a key driver of poverty and a fundamental denial of women's rights.

Women and girls form the majority of those living in poverty. They have fewer resources, less power and less influence in decision making when compared to men. They are exposed to various forms of violence and exploitation and experience further inequality because of their ethnicity, age, race, class, marital status, sexual orientation and (dis)ability.

We believe that transforming gender and power relations, and the structures, norms and values that underpin them, is critical to ending poverty and challenging inequality. We believe that women taking control and taking collective action are the most important driver of sustained improvements in women's rights, and are a powerful force to end poverty not only for women and girls, but for others too.

Our vision and approach

Our vision for women's rights and gender justice is that many more women will gain power over their lives and no longer live in poverty, and that both men and women will challenge inequalities and benefit from less restrictive gender roles.

Our approach

  1. We take a holistic vision of women's lives and look at the multidimensional changes that need to take place to achieve gender justice, Oxfam focuses on three programme priorities: Women's Participation and Transformative Leadership; Ending Violence Against Women and Girls; and Women's Economic Empowerment. Additionally, we mainstream gender throughout all our programmes.
  2. We recognise that only by working at both individual and collective levels with formal and informal processes, institutions, beliefs and behaviours will we create truly transformative change in women's lives.
  3. Oxfam take a holistic approach to women's empowerment. We work across the four inter-dependent dimensions of women's personal, political, social and economic empowerment. We regard this as essential for creating lasting transformations in the structures and institutions that constrain women's enjoyment of their rights.
  4. Oxfam also recognise that we must understand and respond to the many different experiences of discrimination women face in relation to their race, ethnicity, class, age, marital status, sexuality, (dis)ability etc.
  5. Women's rights organisations play both a catalytic role in promoting women's rights and gender equality as well as advancing other critical development goals, and, as such, Oxfam works closely with women's rights organisations as partners and allies.

Programme priorities

Oxfam strongly believes that women gaining power and taking collective action are themselves the most important driver of sustained improvements in women's human rights, a powerful force to end poverty not only for themselves but for others. To achieve this we continue to put women's rights at the heart of all we do (gender mainstreaming) as well as focus on the programme priorities where we have extensive experience:

Women's Participation and Transformative Leadership
Women's Participation and Transformative Leadership is Oxfam GB's number one programme priority on Gender Justice. It aims to strengthen women's individual and collective power to end poverty and challenge inequalities, as well as promote an enabling environment for women's participation and leadership.

Violence Against Women and Girls
Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) requires changes in laws and policies, as well as in individual and collective beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. The core of our work aims to transform social norms and rules which cause and sustain violence against women and girls. We also want to change VAWG prevention policy development and how it is implemented.

Women's Economic Empowerment
Oxfam's Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) work promotes economic opportunity for women, such as greater power in markets and decent work, along with the social and political changes women require to claim their economic rights and improve their overall wellbeing.  In the process, WEE aims to change economic systems-thinking, practices, roles, and policies that systematically discriminate against women so that economic development contributes more sustainable to gender justice.

Gender Mainstreaming: Putting women's rights at the heart of all we do
As well as focusing on these three priority areas, we have reaffirmed our commitment to ensure that gender considerations and related actions are integrated into all our programmes. Additionally, Oxfam GB goes beyond traditional concepts of gender mainstreaming to integrate 'women's participation and transformative leadership' work on social norms, and unpaid care analysis more centrally into all areas of work.