European Women's Lobby

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The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union, founded in 1990, working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men, and representing a total of more than 2000 organisations. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 27 EU member states and the three candidate countries, as well as to European-wide bodies.

Acting as a forum for increased exchange, cooperation and integration, EWL exists as a platform to support the women’s organisations of Europe to play an active role in shaping a European framework for gender equality. EWL envisions a society in which women’s contribution to all aspects of life is recognised, rewarded and celebrated - in leadership, in care and in production; all women have self-confidence, freedom of choice, and freedom from violence and exploitation; and no woman or girl is left behind.

With a Secretariat based in Brussels, Belgium, the EWL is one of the longest-standing European level NGOs, and works closely with European Institutions and civil society partners. At the international level, the EWL has a consultative status at the Council of Europe and participates regularly in the activities of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The EWL believes in a Feminist Europe in which an end to gender inequality is not only possible, but imperative, to achieve the well-being of all people and the planet. It's vision is holistic, transformational socioeconomic, based on well-being, equality, social justice, and with a powerful voice against women’s poverty. EWL envisions a culture in which women enjoy equal rights and participation in reimagined power and decision-making structures, in which all forms of violence against women has been eliminated, and women have been liberated from all forms of oppression.

EWL's mission is a credible source of expertise and experience on equality between women and men and women’s rights, representing the diversity of the women’s movement across the European Union. To represent an inclusive, confident, loud, independent feminist voice and bring real women’s voices into the EU political arena. To build consensus and mobilise our members’ collective experience to work on major issues affecting women, to realise women’s rights, equality between women and men and social justice. To act as a catalyst connecting different actors and organisations to bring change at EU level.


In November 1987 in London 120 women, members of 85 organisations representing 50 millions individual members, came together and adopted two resolutions. The first called for the ‘creation of a structure for influence, open to all interested women’s organisations, to exert pressure on European and national institutions to ensure better defence and representation of women’s interest’. In a second resolution, the delegates called upon the European Commission to ‘lend its support for the organisation in early 1988 of a meeting with a view to the implementation of such a structure’. Support was granted and the European Women’s Lobby and its secretariat in Brussels were formally established in 1990. The EWL was founded in 1990 by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom national coordinations and 17 large European-wide women’s organisations.

At the time just twelve countries formed the European Union, then known as the European Communities (EC). Over the years, as new Member States joined the EC, new national co-ordinations became members of the EWL. While the EU enlarged to countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the EWL established links and cooperation with women’s organisations in these countries.

The European Women’s Lobby was created in response to a growing awareness of the need to defend women’s interests at the European level since:

  • Equality between women and men is one of the missions of the European Union, which has a strong competence to adopt legislation in this area affecting all women and men living in Europe.
  • The scope of the European Union’s activities were and continue to be extending and affect areas with a direct effect on women’s daily lives, particularly with the establishment of the internal market.
  • It became urgent for women and their organisations to participate in the programmes established by the Union and to get acquainted with European legislation affecting them.
  • The creation of such an organisation and its designation of lobbying also corresponds to the particular character of the European-level decision-making process, which allows space for the creation of many organisations, founded to represent all types of interest groups and categories of the public (including various economic sectors as well as trade unions, professional and social grouping).
  • These organisations were responding to a real need on the part of the European institutions. Contrary to perceived ideas, the number of European officials is low, the institutions therefore often call on experts in the course of their work, due in particular to the diversity of the Member States’ people and legislation.
  • As decision-makers within the European institutions are not directly elected by the citizens, with the exception of the European Parliament, the creation of and organisation such as EWL also corresponds to the need to fill the democratic gap between the EU institutions and the citizens.

Theory of change[edit]

Change does not follow a straight path. It is, however, happening every day because of the passion, vision and commitment of people working across borders, social groups, and experiences, who are more powerful when they work together. EWL believes change can happen when:

  • EWL Members and the wider feminist movement work in solidarity with each other across Europe and internationally
  • We use effective and accessible communication, including digital communications, to shift values and behaviours that discriminate against women
  • We build awareness, promote feminisms, and empower all citizens to fight patriarchy
  • Feminist leadership works to eradicate stereotypes and engage men and women to participate in and influence democratic processes
  • Legislation and public policy support women’s equal control over, and access to, spaces, resources and services


In a strategy framework from 2016-2020, the European Women’s Lobby, through its member organisations, aims:

  1. To raise more, better and sustainable funding for women.
  2. To work together effectively at different levels and in different contexts: local, national, European Union and international.
  3. To promote and debate diversity, advancing consensus, and strengthen our collective voice.
  4. To put an end to all forms of violence against women and girls and promote a society of peace, human security and dignity.
  5. To challenge and change the culture of sexism and stereotypes and promote positive roles for women and men.
  6. To promote the feminist transformation of a sustainable economy based on new economic models based on equality, well-being, care and social justice.
  7. To position women at the heart of political, social and economic participation and decision-making.
  8. To ensure sustainable and strong institutional mechanisms for equality between women and men at EU level.


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