A Theory of Change in sexual and reproductive health

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A Theory of Change in sexual and reproductive health

Understanding that we cannot create change alone, the Victorian Women’s Health Program is seeking to initiate collaborative action with a range of partners to develop programs, policies and practice to improve the sexual and reproductive health and autonomy of women and girls. All levels of government, health services and health professionals, research organisations, schools and the community must play a role if optimal sexual and reproductive rights, health and wellbeing are to be achieved for women and girls. To be effective, this work must be supported by policies and regulatory change.

This Theory of Change takes an intersectional approach to sexual and reproductive health (SRH), advocates for a gender transformative approach and is based on a socio-ecological model of health. An intersectional approach involves considering the intersecting factors that impact on SRH of women from diverse backgrounds. Using an intersectional approach encourages social change leaders and policy advocates and decision makers to make connections between various forms, and diverse experiences of, discrimination and disadvantage, to ensure we achieve optimal health for all groups of women.

This means balancing population level universal strategies with specialist, tailored approaches for women who experience intersectional disadvantage, including Aboriginal women, culturally and linguistically diverse women, women with disabilities, sexuality diverse women, gender diverse people, and women living in rural areas.

The Theory of Change is also based on the socio-ecological model of health, which demonstrates how different levels interact to influence and impact the health of an individual. This means that in order for a vision to be achieved, change must be affected on an individual level (knowledge and attitudes), interpersonal (relationships, friends, family, social networks), organisational (workplaces, schools, social institutions), community (physical and social environment) and societal (social policy, economic and legal context) level.

In relation to changing social norms and stereotypes, a gender-transformative approach is favoured to proactively and intentionally transform and alter the underlying gender structures, norms and relations that perpetuate gender inequality. A gender transformative approach, though ambitious, ultimately benefits men, gender diverse people and women. This approach breaks down rigid and limiting gender stereotypes, structures and norms, and the systems of privilege and discrimination that accompany them.

This Community of Practice was comprised of women’s health services across the state. A key priority area of their work is to identify and change systems and structures that place women at risk of poor sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing.

This document outlines a Theory of Change (ToC) that was primarily developed to guide the collective and individual work of the women’s health services to track progress towards the vision for the rights of all women to optimal sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing to be fully realised.

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