06 Dec 2023
Addressing inequality—the root cause of gender-based violence

Shane has devoted his career to addressing gender-based violence.  

“People close to me have experienced different forms of gender-based violence and harm, as children and as adults. It seemed logical to orient my career to try to prevent it from happening by working on its causes,” Shane said. 

A gender advisor and RedR Australia roster member currently deployed with the Pacific Community (SPC) in Fiji, Shane is also a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, which supported his research into sexual abuse against adolescent girls and boys in humanitarian emergencies. 

How can men help reduce gender-based violence? 

Shane believes there are many different roles men can play in reducing violence against women and girls.  

“Men can be important role models for young and adolescent boys, modelling positive and respectful relationships,” said Shane. “They are also important allies in campaigns and social justice work and can be empathetic service providers for women and girls who have experienced harm.” 

He points out it’s also important that men do not detract from women's rights activism. 

“Men need to be accountable to women and girls, and always think critically about language, positionality and power,” he said. 

Understanding the complexities of gender-based violence 

During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, Shane expressed his gratitude for the powerful work that’s being done to prevent gender-based violence. 

“Thanks to the tireless work of feminists and gender equality advocates, we are now aware of how serious and prevalent violence against women is throughout the world,” said Shane.  

He also encourages people to think more critically about interpersonal violence.  

“Witnessing intimate partner violence may have long-term impacts on children and it can affect an adolescents' understanding of relationship dynamics,” said Shane.  

Certain women and girls may also be exposed to extra levels of harm. 

“Women with disabilities, girls living in complex family arrangements and older women living in institutional care also have different risk factors. They may be susceptible to different forms of violence, such as denial of resources or emotional abuse.” 

Addressing these additional vulnerabilities is crucial to protecting these women and girls from harm. 

Humanitarian crises — a critical setting for women and girls 

Shane has worked for humanitarian and international development organisations for more than ten years, with roles addressing a range of gender-based issues—from child protection in refugee camps in Bangladesh, to newborn and maternal health in Timor-Leste. 

He explains that humanitarian settings create unique challenges for women and girls.  

“Gender-based violence tends to increase in humanitarian settings, both as conflict-related violence and as a consequence of disruption and displacement,” said Shane. “The physical, mental and social impacts of this form of violence can be severe and have long-term effects.” 

Shane advocates for humanitarian responses to address gender-based violence as soon as possible, with those affected receiving survivor-centred care and protection. 

A focus on gender 

As a gender advisor, Shane tends to work across an organisation to make sure its projects are properly addressing the different needs and vulnerabilities of women, girls, men, boys, and people of diverse gender identities and expressions.  

“Humanitarian organisations are increasingly recognising they should actively address inequalities between women and men to address the root causes of gender-based violence,” said Shane. 

As a gender advisor, Shane is also often involved in conducting gender analyses of affected communities, training humanitarian staff on gender equality in humanitarian action, as well as conducting consultations to understand how services can best meet the needs of women and girls.  

“My work is fundamentally about ensuring the needs of women and girls are addressed in development projects and in humanitarian responses to complex emergencies.” 

Empowering women in clean energy 

Shane’s current work primarily focuses on gender equality in Pacific Island countries and territories. Through RedR Australia, Shane is deployed to The Pacific Community (SPC) in Fiji as a gender advisor supporting the establishment of the Pacific Energy and Gender Initiative. Rather than specifically responding to gender-based violence, improving gender equality creates the necessary conditions to prevent it from occurring by empowering women and girls. 

SPC is an international scientific and technical organisation that works across the Pacific region to support the development of Pacific Island countries and territories. Their Pacific Energy and Gender Initiative is a regional program which aims to increase the engagement of Pacific women and girls in the transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy. 

“As the Pacific moves towards a clean energy future, we should be seeking to increase women's employment in the energy sector and women’s engagement in energy policy,” said Shane. “We should also increase their involvement in energy-related decision-making and entrepreneurship.”  

Shane’s team at SPC was recently awarded 1.5 million USD by the United States government to begin the implementation of the initiative, and Shane has supported the grant process and establishment of the project. This work also builds on the groundwork of a previous RedR Australia deployee to SPC, Anggia.  

“As this initiative is planned to last at least 10 years, I hope my work will support increased income-generating and technical employment opportunities for Pacific women and adolescent girls in clean energy: an area so crucial for addressing anthropogenic climate change,” said Shane. 

Women’s important role in the transition to clean energy 

In remote and rural communities, women have the opportunity to play a critical role in the procurement and maintenance of solar home systems and clean cooking technologies.  

“In poorer and rural households, women and girls are mostly responsible for cooking. They tend to cook over fires that burn biomass, causing harmful indoor air pollution and respiratory problems. If women and girls are responsible for firewood collection, this can also mean they spend a significant amount of time collecting fuels,” said Shane.  

“By transitioning households to clean cooking technologies (such as biogas systems, which turn household waste into cooking gas) we can reduce the health and time impacts on women, while also reducing the cost burden of LPG.” 

He also points out that we need more women working in the renewable energy sector and in energy-related policy and decision-making. Women are currently underrepresented in technical and managerial roles in energy utilities and government departments related to energy.  

Improving this could lead to more gender-responsive energy projects that better meet the needs of women and girls.

If you or a loved one are experiencing violence and need support, please call 1800RESPECT in Australia or find your nearest support service internationally through the No More Directory.